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Three 'astonishing' works of art are inside the new Moynihan Train Hall

The Public Art Fund says they'll 'stop us in our tracks'

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

In true New York style, the new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station, which opens Friday, has been decked out with incredible art.

Penn Station's $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall features a spacious, light-filled atrium with a 92-foot-high glass skylight and soaring ceilings honoring the design of the original Penn Station, but as with any new transit hub, whether it's a new subway station, airport terminal or a passenger hall like this one, New York calls on its amazing artists to decorate the walls, halls and floors and inspire travelers passing by.

On Wednesday, the Public Art Fund announced that Stan Douglas, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley were commissioned to create works for Moynihan that would offer a fresh perspective on the history and grandeur
of the original Penn Station and James A. Farley Post Office and "a sense of wonder and humanity" that would evoke civic pride and delight for generations to come.

"Nothing could be more fitting for a great metropolitan transit hub than three astonishing works of art that stop us in our tracks," said Nicholas Baume, Director & Chief Curator of Public Art Fund. "Each one dazzles with its sheer beauty, epic scale, and technical mastery. Collectively, they also remind us that great art comes from great ideas. Each artist has thought deeply about the history, context, significance, and future of this newly transformed place, creating brilliantly innovative works of art that allow us to see ourselves—past, present, and future—in a truly civic space.”

Below are the three artworks you'll see inside Moynihan.

RECOMMENDED: See inside Penn Station’s spacious new passenger hall

Penn Station’s Half Century by Stan Douglas

Moynihan Train Hall Stan Douglas art
Photograph: ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner. Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY

Inside the ticketed waiting room, there is a series of nine photographic panels of "remarkable but forgotten" moments of history from the original Penn Station, including singer and comedian Bert Williams doing an impromptu vaudeville show during the epic snowstorm of 1914; outlaw and folk hero Celia Cooney meeting crowds at Penn Station in 1924 after being arrested; thousands of Communist party members and supporters gathering to greet Angelo Herndon, a persecuted labor organizer and champion of racial justice in 1934; three scenes depicting design interventions in the original station’s waiting room; the final moments between soldiers and their loved ones before deployment during World War II; and the soundstage from director Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 love story The Clock, starring Judy Garland.

Douglas photographed live actors in period costumes and combined them with digitally recreated interiors of the demolished station. "The cinematic quality of each scene revives these historic moments in uncanny detail, revealing the architectural landmark as a grand theater for the millions of human dramas that animate civic spaces and imbue them with memory and meaning," the Public Art Fund says.

Go by Kehinde Wiley

Moynihan Train Hall Kehinde Wiley art
© Kehinde Wiley. Photographer: Nicholas Knight. Image courtesy of the Artist, Sean Kelly, New York, Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY

On view on the 33rd Street midblock entryway ceiling, Wiley’s vivid, handpainted artwork is a backlit, stained-glass triptych that's inspired by Renaissance and Baroque paintings. It's a modern take on Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s 18th-century ceiling frescoes, but features young, Black New Yorkers in poses inspired by breakdance. The subjects inhabit the sky alongside clouds, pigeons, and a jet plane, using the urban setting of New York City to "create a surrealist dreamscape that advances a narrative of buoyancy, possibility, and survival," the Public Art Fund says.

The Hive by Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset)

Moynihan Train Hall Elmgreen & Dragset art
Photograph: Courtesy Elmgreen & Dragset, Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY

On view on the 31st Street midblock entryway ceiling, Elmgreen & Dragset’s has placed an upside-down cityscape with 91 small buildings mounted on the ceiling like glowing, 9-foot-tall stalactites, or like a hive of buildings that pay homage to the cities we live in. In total, they weigh more than 30,000 pounds and are lit by 72,000 LEDs. "As visitors pause on entering the train hall, The Hive celebrates the new perspectives and interconnectedness that cities and travel provide," the Public Art Fund says.

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