Here’s an App That Turns NYC Subway Stations into Virtual Art Galleries

Curators’ Corner

Here’s an App That Turns NYC Subway Stations into Virtual Art Galleries

NYC subways are filled with advertisements. And while seasoned New Yorkers might be trained to ignore them altogether, a free app has set out to put the joy of art in commuters’ hands.

No Ad uses augmented reality to transform the city’s vast underground transit network into a series of “mobile art galleries.” Here’s how it works:

  • A user opens the app and points their device at a specific ad
  • The app recognizes patterns on the ad and compares it to a database of all current subway ads system-wide
  • Right before your eyes, the ad is replaced with public art!


Where do the artworks come from? According to Atlas Obscura, No Ad partners with “a revolving door of artists and institutions up to the task” of curating the hundreds of images needed to swap out each ad with a work of art. Right now, the app only works on the two-panel wall ads along subway platforms, but Atlas Obscura reports that No Ad has a database for ads seen inside trains in the works.

Jordan Seiler, one of No Ad’s founding partners, likened No Ad to a giant art project.

“We’d eventually like the city to embrace it as a tool for commuters and tourists to experience the vibrant culture of the city that’s above ground, while they are traveling underground,” he said.



(Images: Jeremy Berke / Atlas Obscura)

While No Ad carries a rogue, “power to the artists” edge that challenges the corporate world, it’s more enjoyable to just have fun with the app and appreciate the combination of technology and art. We don’t see any reason why the advertising and art worlds can’t coexist.

“There’s something really nice about this, a kind of gallery space sitting in your pocket,” Seiler said. “It’s kind of like walking into a physical gallery, and not knowing what the artist is showing. The serendipity of discovery is important.”

True. We’ll definitely be trying out No Ad in the future. If you get to it first, let us know how it is!