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NYC Subway Art: Life Underground

Updated: April 21, 2024

Of all the MTA-Art for Transit's artworks visited during The NYC Subway Art Tour consistently the most popular one among attendees is Tom Otterness' Life Underground installed in 2001.

Fare Evader Taking 10 years to complete, 130 eye-catching bronze figures are scattered throughout the immense 14th Street station. Many are in plain sight and many have to be looked for.

"The impossibility of understanding life in New York," is the theme according to the artist who was inspired by the rampant political corruption during the construction of the NYC subway in the late 19th century.

"I'm surprised that the government allowed him to put all that in!" Expresses a widely shared interpretation that it's a mischievous depiction of the capitalist system. Several of the tableau could be seen to depict the clash of economic classes and others are simply funny.

The picture above is one the most photographed scenes on the tour and captures the humor, poignancy and provocativeness of Life Underground.

Below is a video of Darryl Riley's New York Subway Art Tour, which Darryl offers once a week as a pay-what-you-like tour with us.  Otherwise, he offers this tour two times each day for $25.  Check out the HuffPost's article on Subway Art for even more photos and videos.

The New York City Subway Art Tour from Darryl Reilly on Vimeo.


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About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | I'm a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. I have written for HuffPost Travel and have been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. I've also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. I am the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. I am an authority on D.C. history, and have led tours in the city since 2011. I currently resides in DC, but have also lived in London and South Korea, and have traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. I homeschool my 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC. Read More...
Updated: April 21st, 2024
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