Since 1989, New York City subway trains have, for the most part, been completely graffiti free — an accomplishment that didn’t come easily. It took the MTA decades to eradicate the illicit urban art form from the transit system, so it’s not surprising that the agency is very particular about the type of advertising it accepts.
That’s why I was a little shocked to see an L train at 8th Avenue that was almost entirely wrapped in faux street art, which looked like a perverted version of whole cars from the golden age of graffiti. Instead, it was top-to-bottom advertising for a terrible new show called Street Art Throwdown on the Oxygen Network. I reached out to the MTA for comment.
“So… this one was a close call,” admitted MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg. “On the one hand, our ad standards prohibit anything that could be construed as actual graffiti, and we also prohibit promoting illegal activity. On the other hand, the typeface of the ad itself was not graffiti-style, and our research concluded that everything the show depicts is done legally with permission.”
I asked the MTA if they gave this ad execution any second thoughts since it’s essentially promoting street art.
“Do we have second thoughts? Only that a website that celebrates street art is now wondering if we’re subtly encouraging it,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “The MTA’s position on the scourge of graffiti is unchanged: We will mercilessly eradicate vandalism to our trains, buses and stations anywhere we find it, and we are glad the NYPD is such an eager partner to arrest and prosecute anyone who would vandalize our system and demean its appearance for the more than 8.5 million daily customers who expect a clean and safe journey.”
(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)