‘Contemporary Art Underground’ Celebrates How MTA Art & Design Builds a Modern Museum for New York City


#public art

February 8, 2024

Kate Mothes

Nancy Blum. Photo by Cathy Carver. All images © the artists, courtesy of Phaidon, shared with permission

British artist David Hockney famously quipped, “Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.” Contemporary Art Underground, a forthcoming book from Monacelli posits that these two facets of visual culture are a match made to move us indeed.

Authored by Sandra Bloodworth, who has directed MTA Art & Design for over 30 years, along with deputy director Cheryl Hageman, the volume showcases more than 100 permanent installations undertaken between 2015 and 2023.

Part catalogue and part field guide, Contemporary Art Underground emphasizes the power of visual art in the places we transit through every day. The selection highlights how works by greats like Alex Katz, Derrick Adams, Katherine Bradford, and many more, create a more pleasant and thought-provoking civic experience, transforming the network of subway stations into a highly accessible, one-of-a-kind museum.

Some of the most recent additions to the MTA collection are two mosaics by Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith in Manhattan’s brand new Grand Central Madison station. In 2022, Nick Cave completed an immense mosaic and video installation at the Times Sq-42 St. subway titled “Each One, Every One, Equal All,” which features dancing figures evocative of the artist’s Soundsuits. And in the busiest entrance of the Grand Central-42 St. station, commuters reflect on a colorful, mirrored glass piece by Jim Hodges titled “I dreamed a world and called it Love,” which spans the width of the hall.

Contemporary Art Underground is slated for release on April 24. Pre-order your copy now on Bookshop.


A mosaic of a deer in a wilderness by Kiki Smith in Grand Central Madison train station.

Kiki Smith. Photo by Anthony Verde Photography

A colorful geometric mural of streets and buildings by Derrick Adams.

Derrick Adams. Photo by Emil Horowitz

A spread of a book showing work by Derrick Adams in the New York City Subway.

Two metal silhouettes of Nefertiti and a Black woman face-to-face on a bridge above some railroad tracks.

Damien Davis. Photo by Etienne Frossard

A spread of a book showing artwork by Ololeken Jeyifous in the New York City Subway.

A mosaic by Kathering Bradford of a woman in a blue dress, arms outstretched, in a field of flowers and in front of a night sky.

Katherine Bradford. Photo by Jason Mandella

A mural by Alex Katz in a New York City Subway station.

Alex Katz. Photo by Etienne Frossard

A detail of a mosaic by Nick Cave of figures with colorful, furry suits on, dancing.

Nick Cave. Photo by Photo by Trent Reeves

A spread of a book showing Nick Cave and his mosaic for the New York City Subway in progress.

A large glass mural above the escalators of a subway station in New York.

Jim Hodges. Photo by Felipe Fontecilla

The cover of the book 'Contemporary Art Underground' showing an artwork by Nick Cave and red text on a blue background.

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