90-year-old Alex Katz illustrates subway users for New York Magazine’s 50th anniversary issue

16 October 2017

New York magazine has worked with artist Alex Katz to celebrate its 50th anniversary, creating three alternative illustrated covers depicting the city’s subway users. Back in the 1940s, Alex Katz drew people on the subway while travelling to Cooper Union where he was a student. “We wanted to see if he would revisit the experience of doing subway drawings,” explains photography director of the publication, Jody Quon.

Now aged 90, the artist agreed and “took the C uptown and the B back downtown,” earlier this month. “In his drawings from the 40s, a lot of people are reading books or magazines, whereas now they’re almost all on their phones,” says Jody.

“I was desperate to learn to draw more quickly,” explains Alex Katz when discussing his earlier drawings with senior editor of the publication, Christopher Bonanos. “I started drawing on the subways, at lunches, at bars, at jazz concerts, coming home late from dates.”

The editorial content of New York magazine’s 50th anniversary issue acts a “50-person daisy chain of quintessentially New York relationships”. For example it links television host Pat Kiernan to basketball player Jeremy Lin and then onwards to Robin Byrd. Other notable contributors include former mayor David Dinkins and Lena Dunham “sharing memories about the city they’ve called home”, as well as Whoopi Goldberg, Martha Stewart and Matthew Broderick talking through their first apartments in the city and going back to meet the current residents.

The 50th anniversary issue is just the beginning of celebrations for the publication. Running with the theme of “My New York” it will publish Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York Magazine a book documenting New York City “told through the eyes of New York magazine".


New York Magazine: Alex Katz, courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery


New York Magazine: Alex Katz, courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery


New York Magazine: Alex Katz, courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery

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Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.


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