Subway Art & The NYPD

Today, I had my first encounter with a member of the NYPD at the 42nd Street Subway Station.  But before I get into it, I should probably back-track. 

A few months ago, a New York City-born friend and I were having a discourse, which turned into a debate over the NYC Subway. Basically my friend doesn’t take the Subway.  He thinks it’s beneath him, and it’s dirty, smells and so on—all of the later is true, I did agree with him, especially in August.  Outside of being the most efficient way for me to travel when I’m not with clients, I added, “I just don’t focus on that stuff when I take the subway. The musicians and the art in the tunnels have a way of overriding the bad stuff, for me.”

“What art are you talking about?! The graffiti? ” I answered him, “No, the murals, like the Lichtenstein at 42nd Street.”  He matter-of-factly replied, “There’s no Lichtenstein there!  You’re just confused.”

“I’m not, and the next time I’m there I’m going to take a picture of it for you.”

So today, I found myself at the 42nd Street Subway Station and I happened to have my camera on me. Great, I’ll just snap a pic for [so-and-so], I thought, he’ll believe me now!

I took two photos which prompted a deep, hoarse shout, echoing all round me.

“Yoou—witha camera. Get ovah here!” 

“Me?” Innocent, real estate broker-mom, who’s just taking a photo, he couldn’t mean me, I thought.

“Yeah, yoou!”

It was me.  Awwwww, shoot

Everyone bustling through the station slowed their strides and looked at me. My heart raced and my face burned—and I was certain it must be bright red—just like the primary hue in the mural—not exactly the way I wanted to blend in here in NYC.  I walked over to the rather large, intimating-looking police officer, and he asked, “What are you taking pictures of?” and before I could answer, he added, “Let me see your camera.”  I handed it over, as I replied, “The Lichtenstein.”  As he attempted to pull-up the two photos I had just taken on the camera’s screen, he asked, “The wahhht??!”  I answered him, while pointing, “That mural, sir.  The artist who did it is named Roy Lichtenstein—he’s a famous artist who’s now dead.”   The officer, who was then very nice to me, informed me that there’s a security camera right above the signature—for the mural, and because of the heighten security in the city (post the death of, you-know-of-whom), he didn’t mean to scare me. “I’m justa doin’ my job.” He handed my camera back to me, and as I was putting it back in my handbag, he inquired, “What’s that guy’s name again?”

“Lichtenstein.”

“He’sa really famous?” 

“Yeah, he is. One of his works sold for over forty-million last year at Christie’s.”

“Huh,” he stated–with some interest, looking at the 42nd Street mural.

Even though I was completely embarrassed, wondering if it was really necessary for me to be proving to so-and-so that I was right and he was wrong—about art in the Subway (it wasn’t I’ve concluded), I was happy that Mr. NYPD was doing his job.  I did feel a bit safer, getting on the “Q,” heading back downtown.  I love New York, even more today—for people who are “justa doin’” a job.    

To learn about Roy Lichtenstein via Charlie Rose’s “A remembrance of the life and career of pop art master Roy Lichtenstein with philanthropist and art collector Agnes Gund and curator Kirk Varnedoe from the Museum of Modern Art,” click HERE.

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