By The Virtual Tourist

	Stuyvenbergh, a group of sculptures that represent Belgium's queen and her family, adorn the Brussels subway system
Brussels Subway System

Stuyvenbergh, a group of sculptures that represent Belgium's queen and her family, adorn the Brussels subway system

Although better known for their grunge and graffiti than for their esthetics, subway stations around the world offer commuters some pretty interesting artwork to ponder. make their picks for the world's best places for great subway art.


Were it not for the lack of crowds it might be easy for passengers exiting at the Louvre-Rivoli stop to think they were actually already in the museum. Spotlessly clean (most of the time), the station features well-lit, meticulously displayed ancient works of art just feet from the tracks. Thieves take note -- anything on show here is only a replica.


With dozens of works on display in stations around the city, this is a city that is really committed to keeping its commuters aesthetically happy. One especially notable exhibit is Stuyvenbergh, a group of sculptures that represent the country's queen and her family. Interestingly, the artist has chosen to place the large statues in the actual tunnels.


In a country known for its tiles, it's a sure bet there'll be some fabulous subway art. While there are some sculptures and even some paintings, the majority of the works appear directly on the wall tile itself. Perhaps most notable in the collection are the retro, geometric designs of artist Maria Keil who provided art for the stations from 1957 to 1982.


The art here is not only meant to inspire the creative, but to deter vandalism, according to the system's website. Of special interest is the city's Kungstradgarden station which, among other things, features a display of an archeological dig of sorts, which contains the remnants of demolished city buildings.


Whimsical, clever, and downright fascinating, the Toronto Bayview Station works of artist Panya Clark Espinal have to be seen from a variety of different angles to truly be appreciated. What looks like an umbrella from above looks like no more than a splotch from below and a splotch seen from the right may look like a staircase from the left.


Restored in 2008, "Masstransiscope" is a dynamic work installed in 1980 that works much like a child's flipbook. Posted on the tunnel walls, the series of small images appear to be in motion to riders passing by.


Just one among many exhibits in the London metro is "Linear," a wonderful, expressive series of pencil sketches of the Jubilee line staff. For those who can't get to London this year, a video of the works, as they were created, can be found on the official Underground site.


While it may be most famous for music and cars, the art in Detroit's "People Mover" system can certainly hold its own. One of its most popular pieces may also be its least noticed. "Catching Up," a bronze of a commuter reading the newspaper could almost be mistaken for a real person.


Work at these stations ranges from ceramics to Incan murals to artifacts found when the lines were excavated. For a good laugh, visitors should check out the giant flapper girl head that is painted directly over a tunnel entrance on Line H.


It may be that the cities above have Boston to thank for their collections. According to their website, they had the country's first "art in transit collection." Their 90-piece collection includes everything from holograms to stained glass to works painted right on the benches.


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Travel | Top 10 Places to Find Great Subway Art