42nd Street Subway Station Art
The 42nd Street subway station at Times Square is a treasure trove of art that people pass by every single day without giving a second look to the walls around them. While this is to be expected in a subway station which is a major transit point, my commute through this station – which can often be gritty and joyless – has become something that is actually interesting by tuning in to the art at the station.
While a lot of the art celebrates the Times Square New Years eve festivities, all of it celebrates the spirit of New York as a city that is always on the move.
Times Square Mural by Roy Lichtenstein
As you come down the escalators at the subway entrance on 42nd Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue, the Times Square Mural by Roy Lichtenstein is the first thing that dominates the station. With trains in motion, skyscrapers and Buck Rogers, it is a nod to New York City, past and present, always in motion and always reinventing itself.
Every One by Nick Cave
Every One by Nick Cave is an series of mosaics in a corridor that connects Times Square to the Bryant Park station. Unveiled in 2021 when the corridor opened, it is the first of three series that are being installed at Times Square.
Every One is a representation of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits, which are wearable fabric sculptures that make sound when in motion. This art is built to make the corridor feel like a sound strip, creating an illusion of motion while walking through it past all the colorful figures on the walls.
The complete series of Each One, Every One, Equal All by Nick Cave was unveiled after I write this post, and is available here.
You can read more about all the Nick Cave mosaics titled Each One, Every One, Equal All at the Times Square subway station here.
New York in Transit by Jacob Lawrence
As you walk towards the N, Q, R and W trains, the stairwell has a huge mosaic titled New York in Transit by Jacob Lawrence dated 1997. This pays tribute not just to the diverse cross section of people that traverse the subway station every day, but also their neighborhoods, sports, cultures and the subway which is unites and provides a lifeline to all of the City.
The Return of Spring/The Onset of Winter by Jack Beal
A set of two mosaics at the 41st Street and 7th Avenue entrance, these two mosaics that look like regular subway riders are an allegory as a reflection of what lies above and below the surface, as illustrated through the mythological story of Persephone. The story goes that she was banished underground for 6 months of the year and permitted to spend 6 months above ground, which is a fitting reflection of the time that New Yorkers spend below and above ground, especially with all the subway delays! All kidding aside, the subway is often the fastest option to get most places, and is my preferred form of transportation by far.
Times Square Times, 35 Times by Toby Buonaguiro
A set of 35 ceramic plaques that are inset into the passageway made up of glass blocks by the N, Q, R and W trains, the artwork is a reflection of the arts, fashion, and New Years eve celebrations in New York. Each of these plaques is representative of all that New York is thought of and celebrated to be, and I love looking at these and finding new details every time I look at them.
These look small when you look at them from a distance, requiring you to step close to see the details.
I’ve found most of them, there’s usually one hidden behind something or the other. Here are some of my favorites, the varying lighting making some look brighter than others, but their vibrancy shining on despite the lack of illumination.
Revelers by Jane Dickson
Revelers by Jane Dickson is in the passageway between 7th and 8th Avenue, and is a collection of mosaics of people celebrating New Year’s Eve at the crossroads of the world. These mosaics bring a sense of celebration and joy into what otherwise is an industrial and cold walkway.
Losing my Marbles by Lisa Dinhofer
Losing my Marbles by Lisa Dinhofer is a playful mosaic in the passageway above the A, C and E lines where it to the 7th Ave side of the station. With marbles that look like they are in motion, it is an apt reflection of losing one’s marbles in the constant motion at the Times Square subway station. There is a lot of detail in the marbles when you get up close, reminding me of the colorful ones we used to play with as kids. The marbles continue on the other side of the corridor, making it seem like they jumped out from one wall to continue on the other side of the passage.
Commuters Lament by Norman Colp
Continuing on from the marbles in the passageway to 7th Avenue is a poem called Commuters Lament by Norman Colp that is written in the beams, one sentence at a time. It is the only art installation that I find a downer, but in some ways I guess it is a reflection of what the working week has the potential to be, unless you make an effort to make it otherwise as I try to all the time!
Why the pain?
Just go home.
Do it again.
(The last piece of this is a visual of an unmade bed)