In 2010, a group of 103 artists staged an exhibition in one of the most obscure locations imaginable: underground New York City. They invited no one to the opening. To this day, the artists, one New York Times reporter, and a few MTA employees who have already boarded up their work, know where this vast underground gallery now know as the Underbelly Project, lives. 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, making graffiti in subway tunnels wasn't anything new—artists had been doing it for ages, but PAC and Workhorse were lucky to stumble upon a section underground that hadn't been touched in 100 years, offering a vast space to create pieces directly on the walls. With so many of the amazing participating artists already showing above ground, in galleries and museums around the world, the Underbelly Project was a place for them to fully realize a work without financial or public constraints hindering 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 immortalized gallery.
This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Take Public Transportation. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.
Photos via (cc) Flickr user Vandalog