Usually when I tell people what I think the most beautiful sight in New York is, they just kind of stare at me funny, as though I'm lying to them or making a joke at their expense. Which is understandable, I guess, as what I'm talking about is in the subway, after all, and is basically just a mess of advertising offal. I'm referring to the layers of discarded ad posters that remain once the ad itself is stripped off.
Here's a picture of one:
See what I mean? It's gorgeous (and looks even more amazing in person). I feel like I'm in a museum every time I shuffle by one of these things, and actually I wouldn't be at all surprised to SEE one of these in the Met or MoMA, attributed to a famous abstract expressionist. Which is not to detract from the great abstract expressionists. In fact, without their work I doubt I'd see these as anything special. That is, if I saw them at all.
There's actually two different categories that I've noticed. The more abstract variant as pictured above, and a more intentional, shinily-glossed variety that the MTA has gone through the trouble to paint. I'm sure the MTA has a reason why they paint these things to a beautiful shine, but I don't care what it is. I just think they look beautiful
See for yourself.
Here's one more, which is at the G train stop right by P.S.1, the MoMA annex. Come on, guys/gals, just rope it off, charge admission, and you've got an exhibit on your hands. I call this one "Route 35 West, with Heather (a triptych)."
Thank you for your patience in this matter.
(Ed note: This post originally appeared in March, 2011)