Artist Nick Cave is no stranger to giant, unforgettable NYC-based public art installations—he’s taken over Times Square billboards with his Soundsuits, and brought colorful dancing horses to Grand Central Terminal. And his latest project is just as ambitious: he’s produced a three-piece installation inside the new 42nd Street Shuttle connector. The first of those pieces, “Every One,” will be officially unveiled later this week, but it’s already up in the station right now for straphangers to enjoy.
The installation includes at least 25 figures made of glass set against a white background (which is also a mosaic), which photographer Scott Lynch called “a staggering amount of work” to see in person. He added that it was remarkable how much the station has changed in the last 40 years: “The whole fact that this tunnel exists is disorienting for anyone who, like me specifically, took the Shuttle thousands of times in the 1970s and ’80s.”
For this project, Cave translated and transported his signature Soundsuit pieces—which are inspired by African art traditions and ceremonially dresses, then turned into full-body costumes, and often brought to life with dance and choreography—into static mosaics.
“It’s almost like looking at a film strip,” Cave told the NY Times this week. “As you’re moving down that from left to right, you see it in motion.”
Cave explained to them that he designed the Soundsuits, had photos taken of them in motion, and then collaborated with Mayer of Munich to turn them into the mosaics. The designs were printed out to-scale and the glass pieces “were glued directly onto a mesh backing,” which explains the huge amount of detail present in the finished product. Breaking up the mosaics in the middle are 11 digital screens, and videos of dancers performing in their Soundsuits play three out of every 15 minutes on those.
The effect of seeing the mosaics is already making surprised straphangers take a closer look as they pass through the area.
“I saw this, and it stopped me in my tracks,” said Eve Gigliotti, who was on her way to work on Tuesday when she came upon them. “I’m a big fan of [Cave’s] work, and I knew he had a new subway wall installation, but I didn’t know where it was, so it was a great, big surprise. I love it, it’s fascinating, I wish I could spend more time looking at it.”
“I’m a mosaicist, and I had friends telling me, ‘you’re up there so you better check this out,'” said Susan Swain, who is visiting the city from Dallas, Texas. ” I think it’s fabulous, I’m already familiar with his other work, the Soundsuits, so this does not disappoint…From pictures, you’d almost think these are fibrous threads coming out of the wall, but it’s all flat. I’m a big fan.”
Altogether, the installation cost $1.8 million, as part of an even larger $250 million rehab to modernize the Shuttle. That includes making sure the Shuttle is fully accessible, a consolidated platform to make it easier to board, and an extension of the track that will allow the MTA to run longer cars during peak times. There is a new connection to the Shuttle via the Bryant Park entrance now as well.
The other two parts of Cave’s installation, which includes “Each One” at the new shuttle entrance and “Equal All” on the center island platform wall, will be installed next year.