Shielding Million-Dollar Artwork in NYC Subway


By Peter DeNicola, Evonik Corporation

Building protection is critical to preserving the aesthetics of a structure, especially when man-made pollutants and vandalism conspire to destroy its beauty. For example, studies have shown that the longer graffiti remains visible on a building, the more likely graffiti attacks will reoccur. Further, pollutants and water can stain an unprotected facade, marring its appearance.

To safeguard an owner’s investment, building protection products help reduce vandalism, lower maintenance costs and limit the need for cleaning and restoration.

the art of protecting art

Evonik’s Protectosil products were selected to protect “CHORUS” (plaque, shown above, and artwork, below) from water damage, staining and graffiti.

The WTC Cortlandt Street subway station in lower Manhattan recently reopened, 17 years after its destruction in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Integrated into the new, architectural design of the station was a white, monochromatic marble mosaic — aesthetically linked to the adjacent World Trade Center Transportation Hub — by multimedia artist Ann Hamilton.

Commissioned by Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts & Design, “CHORUS” spans a total of 4,350 square feet across the walls of both platforms and comprises small marble tesserae, forming a white-on-white surface for text from the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The piece has been valued at more than $1 million.

The tactile surface invites subway riders to touch the text as they read, creating meaningful personal encounters meant to acknowledge the civic ideals and aspirations of humanity and society. Between the physical contact and exposure to elements, this moving and valuable artwork required a safeguard.

Protectosil products were applied at the WTC Cortlandt Street subway station in lower Manhattan. WATCH A VIDEO about protecting this piece of art below the World Trade Center.


sustainable solution

With a Silver Level Cradle-to-Cradle Material Health Certificate for its Protectosil BHN water repellent as well as a predominantly low-VOC, solvent-free line of products providing 30 years of service life, manufacturer Evonik had demonstrated that it’s possible to sustain the environment, reduce energy costs and preserve building materials while battling moisture. The following were chosen to protect “CHORUS” from water damage, staining and graffiti.

Graffiti Control. Stopping graffiti vandals from attacking property requires a zero-tolerance approach. Only quick, consistent and complete removal discourages "tagging." A product that combines easy removal with the ability to repel paints and markers makes the vandals’ job harder. Protectosil ANTIGRAFFITI SP, an aqueous silane system that makes porous mineral building material surfaces hydrophobic and oleophobic, was selected for the project.

Above: Spray paint runs on a wall coated with Protectosil ANTIGRAFFITI. See how it works:


Clean Defense. Protectosil SC 100 was selected to make surfaces less susceptible to the growth of microorganisms, such as mold and algae, and to protect against staining from pollutants and water. While common liquids — coffee, cola, oils — could leave permanent stains on untreated surfaces, treated facades could be easily cleaned. 

See how Protectosil SC Concentrate works:

Protectosil and Protectosil ANTIGRAFFITI are registered trademarks of Evonik. Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.

Peter DeNicola, Evonik Corporation

Peter DeNicola holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Rutgers University. He has been with Evonik Corporation since 2000, starting in R&D for the Organic Synthesis Division — responsible for the development of new silane-based molecules. He is marketing manager, Americas, in Building Protection Products, a participating member of ICRI, ACI and NACE and a past sub-chair of ASTM Committee D01.47 “Concrete and Masonry Treatments.”