In 1917 Frank Pick said, “Where there is life, there is art”. He was not an artist but the Managing Director of the London Underground. His approach, which is still alive today, turned the Underground into one of London’s most important patrons of the arts. Since 2000, major works can be found all over London with arts from Jacqueline Poncelet, Knut Henrik Henriksen, John Maine, and Daniel Buren. Some of these works are grand in size, like the Headquarters of the Underground at St. James Park Station, while others are much smaller, like the ‘labyrinth’ works of art, where you can find one small piece at every tube station. Some of these artworks are permanent while others only temporary, so no matter when you are using the London Underground you may be coming across never seen before works of art. If you are looking for some other great places to view some street art, read London Street Photography Locations here.
Also, read my related posts:
All London Underground Stations
One of the UK’s Leading contemporary artists, Mark Wallinger, created a major new artwork for the 150th anniversary of London Underground (or as some call it the London Tube) in 2013. Wallinger created 270 individual circular labyrinth pieces of artwork. One for every station on the network.
Wallinger grew up near the Central Line and developed a personal relationship with the Underground. The ancient symbol of the labyrinth represents the idea of a spiritual journey in many different traditions across the world. The Underground was his imaginative way of being transported.
Like every labyrinth, there is a single path from the start to get to the center and back out again. The entrance features a single red x, following the path you get to the center and back out again on a single path. Similar to the journey on the Underground.
St. James Park Station
The building was designed by Modernist architect Charles Holden. The cross-shaped plan has wings in the north, south, east, and west. Eight sculptures, two on each wing, are intended to reference the ‘Winds in Athens’ ancient Greek Tower. The two carved reliefs for each wing were done by Wyon, Aumonier, Gerrard, Rabinovitch, Gill, and Moore. There are two other sculptures on the building known as ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ by Epstein. They were heavily criticized in 1929 for being indecent. Epstein’s inspiration was taken from ‘primitive’ art and the work was carved directly into the façade of the building, which was later embraced later in the twentieth century.
One of the most popular London Underground stations is Embankment Station. In 1995, painter and printmaker, Robyn Denny (1930 – 2014), was commissioned to create artwork for Embankment Station. The underground train that stops at the Embankment station’s location sits on the bank of the Thames River, provided the inspirations for the work of art. Pieces are found on the Bakerloo, Circle line, District line, and Northern line platforms. The four different color lines are used to represent these four Underground lines that serve the Embankment station. Additionally, the red represents the Tube train and the blue represents the Thames River. You will also find Robyn Denny’s signature on selected panels on each platform.
Green Park Station
After significant improvements to Green station created a new canopy for an artist on the south side of Piccadilly. This London underground zone became the framed view into Green Park. Best known for making stone sculptures, John Main’s artwork transformed the area in 2011.
The “Sea Strata” concept reflects the location between the Leafy Green Park and urban Piccadilly. Within his work, he reveals fossil remains of marine creatures from 150 million years ago from the natural composition of the rock.
It has been described as “a frieze of drawn shapes derived from enlarged Portland fossils has been cut into the stone. The granite skirting of the buildings and floor paving is marked with spirals. In the eighteenth century, there was a reservoir at the edge of Green Park, where people promenaded. The spiraling paving acts as a reminder of that surface of water, and also refers to the Layering of fossils which once formed the seabed”.
Tottenham Court Road Station
Tottenham Court Station is another very popular London underground station. It has the mosaic works done in 1986 by Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005) and commissioned Daniel Buren for his works in 2016. This station is now one of London’s greatest spaces for public art.
One of the most magnificent examples of post-war public art is that of Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court. Paolozzi played a critical role in the development of British art in the late twentieth century. His work is featured prominently on the London underground train network. The Northern line and Central Line platforms have an enduring legacy to his work. The glass mosaics reflect the artist’s interpretation of the local area and his wider interests in mechanization.
One of France’s greatest living artists and one of the most significant contributors to the conceptual art movement is Daniel Buren. He was commissioned in 2008 when the station underwent significant renovations. His approach focused on the makings of various spaces with simple repeat forms: colors, diamonds, circles, and his trademark stripes, all sitting behind a wall of glass. Buren’s work creates a symbol of space and time as you move through the London tube station.
Edgeware Road Station
Covering 16,146 ft² (1,500 m²), Jacqueline Poncelet’s, artwork ‘wrapper’ is the largest vitreous enamel artwork in Europe. The artwork is visible from station platforms such as Chapel Street and Marylebone Road. The artwork is made of grids and patterns in reaction to the ever-changing area. “A pattern not only speaks of other places, but it changes in our culture and the passage of time,” Poncelet once said.
Art Every Day For Everyone.
I was lucky to attend the first-ever tour on the London Underground. The turnout for the tour was a success. There are no confirmed dates for future tours on the London underground tube system at this time. If you are interested in the art tour, please email [email protected] Alternately, you can visit the website for up-to-date information about Art on the London Underground here.