23rd Street Subway Station Art

When I was going home today after a long day of class, I followed my normal routine and walked to the 23rd street subway station to take the train home. When I was waiting on the subway platform, I grew increasingly restless and looked all around for things to stare at. My eyes rested on a curious tile on the subway wall. It said “Marie Curie, Physicist.” I thought to myself, what does this tile mean? It was then that I realized the tile corresponded to the hat mosaic above it. I’ve always noticed the hats floating around all throughout the subway platform wall, but this was the first time that I noticed their meaning. I started to look around at other hats and who they corresponded to, and that task got me walking up and down the platform to look at all the mosaic art on the wall. Other famous people whose hats are shown include: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sculptor and art patron; Fay Templeton, vaudeville actress; and suffragist Maud Nathan. I was actually really surprised that out of the past month that I’ve been going to this station, I only realized this today. It made me think about what I can notice about the world if I just took the time to look and observe.

As soon as I got home, I searched up the subway art, and it turns out that this was the art installation titled “Memories of Twenty-Third Street” by artist Keith Godard. It pays homage to all the regular patrons of this very neighborhood in the 20th century. Once a center of culture, fashion, and entertainment, the Flatiron area was once bustling with actresses, dancers, and people of all backgrounds. It tells a story of times long gone and the people who lived it. After learning the meaning and the reason behind this art, I appreciate it much more than when I only passively glanced at the tile mosaics on the wall, thinking that they were just for decoration and that they didn’t have much meaning. This really proves that in New York City, you can find art in the everywhere, even in the most quotidian of places.

——Joanna Huang

23rd Street Tile Mosaic

photo 4 Marie Curie, Physicist

From top to bottom: Subway station mosaic, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s hat, Marie Curie’s hat. (Photos by Joanna Huang)

2 thoughts on “23rd Street Subway Station Art

  1. Karen Lau

    Hey Joanna, I absolutely agree with you when you said that we can find art almost everywhere in NYC! I think it’s interesting how they put art in the subway station where people stand and wait. This gives people the opportunity to look at the art and this makes them curious, causing them to look up the art online, just like you did. I also find it interesting how they devoted this part of the wall for important women during that time; besides making the wall more appealing to the eye, it also educates us about important figures in American history.

  2. Alex

    Hi Joanna,

    This is a wonderful find! I really like the fact that you found out this was a homage to the regular patrons of this neighborhood. This shows how society can change quickly but art will live. Despite the fact that 23rd street is so different now and the people changed, this wall captures and saves the memory of the people and the culture of a few decades ago. We have a sense of their hats and their style so if we ever want to dress like the past, we can replicate a hat from the design on the wall!

    Great post.


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