Mark Wallinger, who in 2007 won the U.K.’s Turner Prize, is making art for all 270 of London Underground’s stations to mark the network’s 150th anniversary.
Using the labyrinth as his theme, Wallinger is creating a unique, picture-frame-sized enamel panel with a black-and-white design for display in each station. The “Labyrinth” series makes its debut today in 10 stations, including Baker Street, King’s Cross St. Pancras, and Victoria. Remaining stops will be furnished by June.
Other contemporary artists are being commissioned to produce work for the 150th anniversary, including a poster series. Details will be announced later this year.
“I’m a child of the Tube,” said Wallinger, who grew up in Chigwell outside London. “The train track was behind my childhood home: My mum still lives there.”
“It was the last thing at night dropping off to sleep -- ta-toom, ta-toom -- and getting up in the morning. So it was a very soothing presence,” he told journalists gathered around him on the Underground platform at St. James’s Park, where one of his first pieces was made public by Transport for London.
Wallinger said he wanted to see more projects in that vein. “There’s probably not enough public artworks out there,” he said. “I think they’ve become rather timid.”
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, hailed the commission.
“A formidable legacy of art” has been inspired by the Underground, he said. He mentioned the Tube map designed by Harry Beck and inventive posters providing traveler information.
He was the first artist commissioned to design a work for the empty sculpture platform in Trafalgar Square. His “Ecce Homo,” depicting the ailing Christ, occupied the Fourth Plinth in 1999.
In 2004, he dressed as a bear and roamed around a Berlin museum for 10 nights, using an animal that symbolizes Germany to reflect on the country’s past and present. Two years later, in “State Britain,” he replicated some 600 banners and placards put up by Iraq War protester Brian Haw outside the U.K. parliament.
In 2009, he staged a well-reviewed exhibition at the Hayward Gallery (“Mark Wallinger Curates: The Russian Linesman”) pulling together pieces he considered significant, including a double-headed Roman marble bust and a woodcut by Albrecht Durer.
The same year, he won a 2 million pound ($3.13 million) commission to put up a monumental horse sculpture in former cement quarries at Ebbsfleet in Kent, near London. The project has since been stalled for funding reasons.
“There are some promising leads, we’re still hopeful,” Wallinger said of the horse.
For more information on art on the Underground, go to http://art.tfl.gov.uk/
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