In 2010, 103 artists staged an exhibition in an obscure, strange location: underground New York City. No one was invited to the opening. Even today, only the artists, a New York Times reporter, and a few MTA employees who have already boarded up their work, know the location of the vast underground gallery known as the Underbelly Project. 18 months in the making, from early 2009 to mid 2010, some of the worlds’ most prominent graffiti writers like Swoon, Faile, Ron English, Revok and Lister were invited by curators (and street artists) Workhorse and PAC to make a section of New York’s subway tunnels beautiful in their own way.
In 2009, graffiti in subway tunnels wasn’t anything new but PAC and Workhorse were lucky to stumble upon a section underground that hadn’t been touched in 100 years, offering a vast clean canvas. And without the social and financial constraints of ‘the surface world’, the Underbelly Project allowed the artists to freely showcase their creativity. The results are now legendary despite the fact that few have ever seen the work save for in pictures circulated on the internet, and through a massive tomb documenting the secret project published by Rizzoli in 2012. When the MTA finally caught wind of the “gallery” they sealed it’s secret entrance, creating a time capsule of art by some of the most relevant contemporary artists today.
Eventually the project found a new life under the streets of Paris (below). At this rate, perhaps one day every underground transportation system will also boast its own art gallery?