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Underground NYC Gallery

Deep down below the densely populated streets of New York City, two street artists, PAC and Workhorse, have embarked upon an amazing undertaking: Creating a gallery for over one hundred street artists, while at the same time literally taking the work of these artists out of the increasingly commercialized world of street-art back into the underground. Very underground actually, in a deserted subway station. None of the art will ever be sold, which is not very uncommon for a lot of work painted on walls and buildings in the public domain, but what actually is very uncommon for street art, is that those works of street art will never be seen by anyone. Not in real life at least. Photographs are the only clues of what lies deep below New York city’s tarmac.

More photographs taken at the Underbelly Project site can be viewed here

Quote from the organizers:

“In the beginning,” Workhorse says, “street art was something you did because you didn’t fit in anywhere else. But for the last few years urban art was getting ridiculous. You could go out with some cute little character that you drew, or some quirky saying, and put it up everywhere for a few months, then do a gallery show and cash in on the sudden interest in urban art. It really was that easy for a while. Banksy pieces that were selling for $600 one year were suddenly selling for $100,000 a few years later. It was commercialism at its worst. The Underbelly was our way of feeling like we were an island again. We finally had a space in the world that collectors couldn’t contaminate. A space that couldn’t be bought.”

But then again, you can never be sure nowadays: one can’t help but wondering if in the future we will be treated to stuff such as; “Underbelly Project – the Book“, “Underbelly Project – the Movie“, and “Underbelly Project – the T-shirt line“? On the other hand; if earning money with the Underbelly Project could help artists like PAC and Workhorse to keep creating projects like these, than how bad can those side projects really be? What do you think?

Another thought I had about the project is that I really liked the fact of having a kind of  time capsule of street art, somewhere in the depths of New York City, and only a few people knowing of its existence. It could become an urban legend, with maybe an occasional photo leaking into the internet overground now and then. Or maybe only revealing it with the celebration of its five year anniversary. I don’t know exactly how, but don’t think that unveiling the project to a NY Times journalist on a private two-and-half-hour tour was really in line with the ethics of keeping it underground……

It does raise a lot of questions and is intriguing for sure and an impressive undertaking. And raising questions instead of answering them might be one of the most important aspects of art.

PS I guess going public through the NY Times indeed didn’t really do a lot of good to the idea of a time capsule: Less than a day after publication the exact location got published on the web and already people have painted over some of the paintings and destroyed some sculptures. And some people got arrested for trying to ‘visit the gallery’ (link) . So I guess at the moment it’ll be a kind of private gallery for police officers, which again is pretty interesting, just as the Secret Service is the biggest ‘collector’ of the hand drawn dollar bills of JSG Boggs……..

16 thoughts on “Underground NYC Gallery

  1. Is it a hobby horse or again a commercial venture? I have my doubts – looking at the earned media attention but also the planned website ( Of course, you could argue – would a guy like Ron English need more attention as his paintings are already sold before he buys the paint for it? If not, what do this group of 100+ artists want to prove? That street art lost its true soul and it's time for a renaissance? Don't know, enlighten me!

  2. How can it be street art when it is not:

    A. in a street
    B. publicly (or: ‘for free’) available
    C. made in relation to it’s surroundings (well, maybe the rats…)?

    It does not really prove a point now. If you can’t see art, what is it worth?

  3. It seems to me that money is just another material for the artist to use. If art is created for the sake of getting rich then the work is going to be weak and I think that is what people's objection is pointing toward. However there is no getting away from our capitalist society and if an artist wants to operate in the material world that material is going to cost money. Money itself isn't inherently bad or wrong but if the work doesn't come from an artistically genuine place then that work is probably going to be lame and no one wants more lame art.

  4. Typical an example why China is beating our ass.

    Just as the other K foundation I see no reason for these so called artists to paint underground. If they really want to stay incognito and do something beautiful they should help the elder for free a couple of days a week and not fb or tag about it. These thugs want to be immortal somehow but barely manage to wipe their own ass.

    They dont brake a sweat and the motives vary from getting laid to getting popular and rich. Thats their whole spectrum. The tunnelvision so thats why tunnels atract them.

  5. It could be conceptualized streetart, as in the streets telling their stories, once whispered by the drawings hands of its urban wanderers.. Emotional traces from raging turbulent tornado's or sensitive mirrors from calming inner ripplings, they show hidden glimpses of our human undergrounds..

  6. Well, I think it’s a bit of a luxury problem. Most artists are struggling with the whole money issue. It’s kind of decadent that some artists are trying so hard to be underground (literally) again.
    Apparently money does not always give you more freedom right?

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