MTA Arts & Design brings Yayoi Kusama + Kiki Smith as Permanent Artworks to New Grand Central Madison Terminal




Yayoi Kusama portrait from ‘Yayoi Kusama: Every Day I Pray for Love’ courtesy David Zwirner Gallery, exhibition in 2019 at Chelsea gallery location.

MTA Arts & Design announced the commissioning of two highly acclaimed artists selected to create permanent artwork for the greatly anticipated Grand Central Madison, a new 700,000-square-foot Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) terminal below Grand Central Terminal, along Madison Avenue between 43 and 48 Streets in Manhattan. The site-specific large-scale installations by Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith will be unveiled with the opening of the new terminal later this year.

The upcoming unveiling of the new Grand Central Madison terminal, featuring floor-to-ceiling mosaics will not only mark the most transformative change to the Long Island Rail Road in over a century, but will serve as a symbol of New York’s world renowned arts and culture scene,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “Public art is a staple of this city, and we are excited to bring it to the Long Island Rail Road for all New Yorkers to enjoy during their commute.”

“Grand Central Terminal is a world-renowned icon because the people who came before us were determined to create something special — not just a transportation facility, but a place of beauty,” said Janno Lieber, MTA Chair & CEO. “Whether it’s the constellation ceiling or the Tiffany clock or the statue of Mercury — the art and design make the Terminal a true landmark and a destination. The new LIRR Grand Central Madison facility below the existing terminal carries this tradition forward with art that elevates the travel experience and creates a sense of place. These 2,400 square feet of floor-to-ceiling mosaics are permanent gifts to the people of New York.”

“We are honored to have the opportunity to work with Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith, the artists commissioned to create site-specific artworks for the new terminal,” said Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts & Design. “Grand Central Madison is set to be the new must-see destination in Manhattan, and we are thrilled to include powerful and thought-provoking art by two incredible artists for everyone who passes through this new public space. These extraordinary original artworks will be part of the fabric of the city and will bring joy to all who travel through.”

MTA Arts & Design commissioned Kusama and Smith through a competitive artist selection process. Finalists were identified to develop site-specific proposals for sites throughout the terminal responding to the architectural design and future use as a terminal for LIRR commuters, and the commissions were awarded based on the strength of those proposals.

Yayoi Kusama ‘Pumpkin’ a permanent art installation located at the Sky Building, 605 West 42nd Street, NYC

About Yayoi Kusama ~ Born in 1929 in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. From a young age, Yayoi Kusama experienced visual and auditory hallucinations and began creating net and polka-dot pattern pictures. In 1957, she went to the United States and began making net paintings and soft sculptures, as well as organizing happenings and developing installations that made use of mirrors and lights, establishing herself as an avant-garde artist. Overcoming various obsessions, she discovered an artistic philosophy of self-obliteration via the obsessive repetition and multiplication of single motifs.

Kusama with Pumpkin, 2010 © Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York

Yayoi Kusama represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, and lives and works in Tokyo, where the Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in October 2017. Over the past decade there have been museum exhibitions of Kusama’s work touring the world in North America, Japan, Korea, Singapore, China, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Spain, England, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, Canada, Taiwan, Indonesia, Germany, and Israel.  In 2016, Kusama received the Order of Culture, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Imperial Family. Kusama is the first woman to be honored with the prestigious medal for drawings and sculptures.

Pausing to remember Kusama: Cosmic Nature at New York Botanical Garden in 2021.

Kiki Smith, Rest Upon, 2009. Frieze Sculpture at Rock Center, 2019

About Kiki Smith ~ Kiki Smith, born 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany, uses a broad variety of materials to continuously expand and evolve a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing, and textiles.  Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide including over 25 museum exhibitions. Her work has been featured at five Venice Biennales, including the 2017 edition. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017 was awarded the title of Honorary Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Previously, Smith was recognized in 2006 by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”

Kiki Smith, Lilith, 1994, Bronze with glass eyes at The Met

Other awards include the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000; the 2009 Edward MacDowell Medal; the 2010 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts; the 2013 U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton; and the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center, among others. She is an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia University.

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Take a look at some of our favorite projects by MTA Arts & Design ~ The Second Avenue Subway, Jim Hodges at Grand Central 42nd Street, Derek Fordjour, ‘A Parade’ at 14th Street, Yoko Ono on 72nd Street, and Zenobia Bailey at Hudson Yards #7. More MTA Arts & Design Here.