New York Subway Mosaics
- Dates: June 1974 through July 1974
- Collections: Decorative Arts
June 20, 1974: Watch the Closing Doors: Mosaics of the New York City Subways, is currently on view at The Brooklyn Museum now through September 2.
The exhibition, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art's Downtown Museum, centers around mosaics and faience plaques of New York’s subway system. Since most of these decorations are either in place (though covered over by new construction) or have been destroyed, the exhibition consists principally of color photographs. Also included are some of the original plans and photographs depicting stations when they were first opened, and a series of maps showing the yearly development of the subway system, and the changes in decorative style that accompanied its growth.
Commenting on the exhibition, David Hupert, head of the Whitney’s Education Department, describes the historical background as follows: “When the subways of New York were constructed in the first two decades of this century, they were considered not only a technological achievement, promoting the economic well-being of the city, but also a source of pride and beauty for its citizens. All of the stations were adorned with mosaic and faience designs, which at once gave a visual unity to each of the lines and, at the same time, distinguished the stations, one from another. This latter functional purpose was particularly necessary, since many of the early subway riders were either illiterate, or newly arrived immigrants.
These visual delights under New York’s streets are today largely neglected. Some of the decoration has been destroyed or covered over by new construction. Much of it, however, is hidden by a combination of soot, paint, and sundry intrusions of electrical wires and pipes. In this neglect, the changing tastes and visual focus of the population has played a particularly important role.”
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1974, 049 View Original