New York

Mysterious NYC Duo Puts Museum Labels on Ordinary Subway Scenes, Calls it Art

What to Know

  • A mysterious art duo is satirizing scenes from the New York Subway by placing exhibit labels in stations
  • The labels turn things like old chewing gum, bodily fluids on poles and walls and butt imprints into art pieces
  • The duo wants people to think of the subway as an interesting historical artifact, rather than a dirty, ageing transit system

One man’s butt imprint on a subway seat is another man’s… art?

A mysterious art duo is placing exhibition labels on ordinary and downright dreary scenes in subway stations in an attempt to get people to think about the New York Subway system in a different way.

Old chewing gum, dried vomit on a wall, a dead cockroach and a dirty staircase become satirical art pieces thanks to the labels, which feature a title, date, description and materials -- just like you might see in a gallery or museum. 

The guerrilla museum curation project is being documented on the new Instagram account 'MTA Museum,' which launched November 15. On the account, the "masterpieces" are even accompanied by an audio guide.

The acccount's founders, two art students who wish to remain anonymous, say they are trying to get New Yorkers to think of the subway as a piece of history, rather than an "out-of-date, dirty, old, decrepit" transit system.

"[The NYC subway system] has 114 years of history, it's one of the oldest and most used in the world. We wanted to explain those pieces that represent the everyday lives of New Yorkers in a humorous way. And we wanted to change the negative “old” perception of [the subway] to fun and historical “old"."

The page strives to preserve the subway’s 114-year-old essence while satirizing the most decrepit bits by labeling them as if they were in a museum. Bright, white museum labels reenvision spat-out gum remnants as the art piece "Concrete Jungle Dreams of Bubble Gum" while a wall covered in dried bile is heralded as "an accidental masterpiece."

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Their most notable post is the “Untitled/ Butt Pattern” piece, which depicts the mark of millions of buttocks that collaborated for decades to create the unique design. 

The addition of an 'audio guide' on the MTA Museum account keep the account consistent with the concept of a museum. "The description cards and audio guide are major elements of the museum," the curators said. "The voice of the audio guide is from a free computer generator because as students, we had a low budget," the curators said.

While the page is just four day old, the opportunities for ‘art pieces’ are endless. The subway “masterpieces” are written and curated by the two who run the page, under the direction of professors, but submissions from fans will be considered in the future.

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