JUST IN: Police continue to arrest trespassers to this show. Although there’s no current plan to paint over the works, said to be likely located somewhere under Williamsburg, the NYPD is determined not to allow anyone to see them, citing safety and security concerns. Pictures on the Internet, though, show that some of the paintings have already been vandalized.
What you may experience walking the streets of New York at any given moment may follow you long after. That’s above the ground and no, it’s nothing to do with dogs. But what’s happening below your steps, you can only imagine.
Now here’s something you may be walking on too: a secret art show, hidden within the walls of an abandoned subway station that neither you, nor most of the 8 million people living in this city, will be invited to attend. Ever.
“The Underbelly Project,” the creation of street artists Workhorse and PAC, and 103 other guests from around the world, is just such a show. By the way, they all would rather be referred to only by pseudonymous. Because, first, graffiti art is deemed vandalism in New York and, therefore, illegal, and also because the MTA, which owns the subway tunnels, would never allow such a venture to go on in its property.
It took 18 months of grueling work to put together the project and only a few hours to document it and seal the access to its premises for good. Perhaps some day it’ll be unexpectedly discovered like a time capsule by an urban archaeologist of the future. For art historians of the same period, though, it won’t be hard to realize that it rather memorializes a time prior to its own existence.
Its inaccessibility and likely ephemeral nature is designed to evoke the punk-anarchic spirit of the urban art scene of the 1970s New York. Yet apart its brutal logistics and still real threat of persecution, the show is closer to a rehashing of the long-lost rebellious attitude that marked pioneers of the era, by now, either gone or co-opted for good by the established art world.
A quixotic nihilism pervades PAC’s summation of the project: “Collectors can’t buy the art. The public can’t see it. And the only people with a chance of stumbling across it are the urban explorers who prowl the city’s hidden infrastructure or employees of the MTA.
This being New York and all, though, we wouldn’t be surprised if, as we speak, some fat cat isn’t already planning on bringing the show up to the surface. But it’d probably be equally exclusive – red velvet rope and bouncers galore included -, another A-list-only event neither you nor the rest of those 8 million souls would ever be invited to.