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Underground Art

You wouldn’t usually find ‘commute’ and ‘inspiration’ in the same sentence, but look around the New York subway system and the London Underground and you’ll find an abundance of colourful art installations. They are there to brighten up your day as you move beneath the city. Join us as we share some of our favourite discoveries from our journeys around New York and London.

One of the New York subway’s latest art pieces is Xenobia Bailey’s ‘Funktional Vibrations’. Here there are two gorgeous mosaics made of glass tile in the new Hudson Yards subway station. To create the piece, Bailey first rendered the murals which are rich with colour and intricately patterned them in crochet. Then Bailey worked with Miotto Mosaic Art Studio to bring the pieces to life.

Beneath Bloomingdales’ flagship store on Lexington Avenue, a bright and swirling mosaic leads you to the subway. Elizabeth Murray’s ‘Blooming’ mural cascades around corners and down different tunnels to ‘stimulate thoughts about passage’ as the artist notes. Lines of poetry by William Butler Yeats and Gwendolyn Brooks also work their way into the art, which first premiered in 1996.

Our love for flowers is no secret and the bigger the better! We love the large scale botanical murals found in Bedford Park Blvd Station and in the 28th St Station. We wouldn’t blame you if stopping to stare at this mural within the Bedford Park Blvd station made you miss your 4 train. Andrea Dezso’s piece, ‘Community Garden’ is a sumptuous mosaic using thousands of pieces of coloured tile. Dezso’s work often features nature and this is no different, but we think it’s more vibrant than the gardens above-ground!

Miotto Mosaic Art Studio created installations at 28th St Station based on drawings by artist Nancy Blum. The murals depict vibrant red buds, hellebores, witch-hazel, magnolias, daffodils, hydrangeas and camellia plants – all flowers that represent the perennial collection of the Madison Square Park Conservancy which is just a few blocks away. Blum told the MTA (The Metropolitan Transportation Authority) that the goal of her design was to ‘capture the magic of the park and enhance the station environment for subway riders’.

Just a few blocks away at the 23rd St Station is one of our very favourite underground installations in New York. William Wegman photographed his dogs and employed Franz Mayer of Munich to create the highly detailed mosaic. Wegman wanted to ‘create portraits of individual characters – people who you might see next to you on the platform’.

We have previously blogged about Mimi de Biarritz’s unique collection of hats and at the 23rd St R Station, you’ll find 120 whimsical mosaic hats dancing around its walls. British visual artist Keith Godard’s ‘Memories of 23rd Street’ depicts actual hats worn by famous people who passed through the neighbourhood in the 1880s to 1920s. Godard explained ‘I actually researched all the people who lived in Chelsea Hotel from about 1880 to about 1920 and I found there were some incredible people who lived there – a lot of famous people. The hats never fail to bring us joy!

Mosaics can be found in London too! A short walk from The Soho Hotel is Tottenham Court Road station and here you will find an installation by one of Britain’s most influential pop artists, Eduardo Paolozzi. The mosaic installation was completed in 1986 and as part of a major renovation of the station, the mosaics underwent significant restoration and conservation work. Around 95 percent of the mosaics were retained at the station when it underwent a huge expansion to prepare for the introduction of the Elizabeth line. We love how the composition of shapes and colours create a sense of movement which emulates that of a machine, highlighting Paolozzi’s interest with technology and human engagement.

Thank you for going underground with us to explore some of New York and London’s hidden works of art. These examples act as a reminder of why we should always keep a lookout for inspiration anywhere and everywhere! Have you stumbled upon any interesting art during a commute? Share your discoveries with us on Instagram @KitKempDesignThread

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