Lou Reed Commemorated at NYC Subway Station

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Lou Reed artwork by Chuck Close at the 86th Street subway station on the 2nd Avenue line in NYC. (Photo courtesy of the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

When you think of consummate New York rockers, you certainly have plenty to choose from: The Ramones, Patti Smith, Simon and Garfunkel, the New York Dolls, Blondie and so many more. But perhaps no single rocker is more closely associated with the city that never sleeps than the late Lou Reed, who got his start in the mid-’60s with the Andy Warhol-sponsored Velvet Underground and then went on to have a prolific solo career—performing countless concerts and releasing diverse, often artistically brilliant, sometimes challenging and controversial, never ignored recordings—up until his 2013 death.

Reed was never one to court praise or honor but in the few years since his passing he’s been the focus of several memorial concerts and radio broadcasts.

What he would make of the newest dedication to his contribution, however—a large-scale tile portrait inside of the 86th Street Station on the brand new 2nd Avenue Subway line, which opened today, January 1, 2017—is anyone’s guess. But there it is, for all riders to admire: Lou Reed, a permanent fixture, appropriately, in the underground.

Related: An interview with Lou Reed upon the release of his collaboration with Metallica

The Reed artwork is one of 12 in a series of detailed “Subway Portraits” by artist and photographer Chuck Close. The works are scattered among four stations on the 2nd Avenue line—which finally opened after a century of failed and delayed plans—at 96th, 86th, 72nd and 63rd streets. Ten of Close’s portraits are done in mosaic and two with tile, each measuring nine feet tall. Reed and modern classical composer Philip Glass are the only musicians portrayed. Two pieces are self-portraits by Close and the others include artist Kara Walker, photographer/director Cindy Sherman, painter Cecily Brown and others. The artworks are installed on the subway station walls and on mezzanine concourses.

Did you know there is an annual No Pants Subway Ride day in many major cities? 2017’s is being observed on Sunday, January 8.

Related: A conversation with Danny Fields, New York rock scene perennial

Other types of artworks adorn the newly opened stations, including sculptures, photographs and other forms, some depicting the history of the long-delayed subway extension and others New Yorkers in various daily pursuits.

Watch the video for Reed’s “NYC Man”

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Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. T
    #1 T 2 January, 2017, 10:37

    Lou’s songs epitomized NYC. The gritty street life and psychosis all kids were dreaming about. Be it they we natives or came to the city to sow their oats. Lou”s music painted a reflection of the city life that kids and adults believed to be exciting. And those things really were and still are in NYC. The pace, the diversity, the sex, the food, the music,art,business, the realtionships, the sin. It even sounds cool spelling it out right?
    Long live Lou

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