The New York City Underworld

As cities age and growth booms the underground world of the subway system is constantly developing and shifting to grow with the city. New lines are implemented while the old lines are abandoned and left empty for years to come.  For years the only occupants that roamed the empty tunnels were the residential rats, creepy insects and the occasional city transit employee. That is until 18 months prior to the summer of 2010 when a group of street artist began forming what is now known as the Underbelly Project. The Underbelly Project is a collection of amazing works by 103 street artists from around the world that are painted directly onto the walls of the tunnels. It’s like the Cans Film Festival of street art, some of the worlds best graffiti artist painting in one spot. The best part of it: each artist was given one night to paint something magical.



What’s unique to this project is that the curators unveiled their works for one night only, leading a select few reporters and photojournalist on a journey to the depths of the underworld. The reason for the lack of publicity is due to the exhibition being mounted illegally and the fear of the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) pressing charges loomed over the artist heads.

The Underbelly Project did not just stop with the underground world of New York City, in mid 2011 it reappeared at Basel Miami Week. This time around the show presented documentation of the New York Underbelly –videos, photos, time-lapses and first hand accounts from the artists themselves. The gallery space was transformed into an imitation of the NYC location complete with recorded sounds playing from the nights underneath the city.

In late 2011 The Underbelly Project took a Eurotrip and the artist found a new location four stories beneath the city streets of Paris. Here’s a video to Underbelly Paris.


What I find most interesting about this project is the reason for their art being hidden in a secretive locale according to one of the curators is that, “We do want to preserve the kind of sacred quality of the place, but we also want people to know it exists. And we want it to become part of the folklore of the urban art scene.” Four stories below the grounds theres a world of art waiting to be discovered –only millions of people have no idea that it exist.

The Underbelly Project: Art underground and what I saw


1 Comment

Filed under City Cultures

One response to “The New York City Underworld

  1. I had heard about this project because of my interest in the New York subway. I didn’t know about its afterlife at the art exhibit and in Paris, though. Thanks for that! If you would like to put this into a critical conversation for the final paper, there are a couple of people you might want to check out. The first is David Pike, who has several books about subterranean city spaces and their association with urban culture. The other is Julia Solis, who has a book called Underground New York.

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