Empress Voyage 2.22.1794 by Bing Lee

In case you haven’t noticed, I spend a great deal of time obsessing over ceramic tile and patterns so, when the two come together in a narrative installation, well, my day is pretty much made. So it was when I came across Empress Voyage 2.22.1794 by Bing Lee in the Canal Street station of the MTA in Lower Manhattan, which includes a large tile installation and mosaic banding on platform walls.

This permanent art project was created in 1998, just over two hundred years after the pioneering expedition of the American merchant ship, Empress of China, which in 1794 returned to New York harbor filled with silk, tea, and porcelain. The tiles illustrate aspects of the then-new trade with Asia and also celebrate today’s Chinatown.

On the train platforms, debarking passengers are given a choice of reading Canal Street in English or the Chinese characters for Chinatown.

Interlocking teapots incorporate the Chinese symbol for Good Life.

For more information, see the MTA’s Canal Street station entry on its Arts for Transit site.

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