Exhibiton Space

Underground Images

Posters from New York

The SVA Subway Campaign has been one of New York City’s most enduring public art projects for six decades. With nearly 130 posters and growing, the collection has brought a steady stream of art by some 50 legendary artists to subway platforms throughout the city. The series dates back to the mid 1950, a time of growth for the College. Founder and Chairman Silas H. Rhodes had an idea about a way to recruit new students. Inspired by street posters in Paris by artists touting their exhibitions, he drew on his best resource—the high-profile artists on the faculty—to create posters to promote the school. Showcasing work by the likes of Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and George Tscherny, the eye-catching posters effectively let SVA speak for itself. Open till 26 November.

Underground Images

The SVA Subway Campaign has been one of New York City’s most enduring public art projects for six decades. With nearly 130 posters and growing, the collection has brought a steady stream of art by some 50 legendary artists to subway platforms throughout the city.

The series dates back to the mid 1950, a time of growth for the College. Founder and Chairman Silas H. Rhodes had an idea about a way to recruit new students. Inspired by street posters in Paris by artists touting their exhibitions, he drew on his best resource—the high-profile artists on the faculty—to create posters to promote the school.  Showcasing work by the likes of Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and George Tscherny, the eye-catching posters effectively let SVA speak for itself.

The series brought new level of public art to New York’s underground at a time when the subway was dominated by hard-sell advertisements and posters for Broadway shows. Over the decades, the SVA subway poster campaign became a Who’s Who of contemporary design, illustration and photography.

Artists relish the chance to create subway posters because they are given complete freedom to communicate what SVA is,” says SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes, who took over as the program’s creative director in 2007. “They can take risks that they couldn’t take with their other clients. They have no need to sacrifice aesthetics to commercialism—they’re given license to create pure art, free of advertising’s clichés and stereotypes.

The posters are wildly different in style, yet all reflect the artists’ joy of creativity and zeal for excellence. They help remind commuters about the power of art to surprise, provoke and inspire. Many incorporate quotes like “Every great idea is only an idea until you make it real,” “To be good is not enough, when you dream of being great” and “It’s never too late to get where you’re going. ” For some 60 years, the SVA subway poster campaign has challenged millions of New Yorkers to think big, take chances and never stop learning—the very same values that SVA has espoused since its doors opened in 1947. 

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