- 24th of Aug. 2010 -
This past May, Transport of London published a new tube map, with an exceptional cover featuring work by Barbara Kruger, an American artist who’s work is famous for using text and popular image to convey an idea. Her interpretation of the subway map replaces station names with words describing traits of human personalities, such as Compassion, Vigilance and Devotion, as well as personal aspects we all wish we had, like Reason and Belief, and emotions we all tend to feel, like Envy, Pride and Doubt. This was not the first time a special cover was used for the pocket tube maps of the London Underground. Since 2004, some twelve artists have participated in Art on the Underground, a project advocating artistic interpretation of the iconic underground train system.
The 12 covers done so far.
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Tube Map), May 2010.
And this is the back.
A little while ago, a friend picked a few of those maps up for me at their origin. The proud owner of such maps and before they are framed and put on the wall (yep), I felt like sharing my thoughts on them.
Personally, I think that this is public art, transforming what usually goes on canvas or printed paper to a mass communication tool. Since art is a massive communication tool, they are the same to me, even if one sits in its uniqueness within the walls of an establishment and the other is printed in 15 million copies and has a high potential of confusing every tourist who is oblivious to it all.
Barbara Krugers art has always dealt with consumer culture and how those who live in it tend to express themselves. Aesthetic and straight-forward, her works have been highly popular from the start. To me, this project is a wink at those who tend to take the art world a tad too seriously, sometimes refusing to see the humor it can hold while managing to express an opinion on how this consumer world connects emotion to objects and places instead of self and others.
Other artists who have participated in the past include some very important ones as well:
Yinka Shonibare, Global Underground, June 2006.
Liam Gillick, The Day Before, January 2007.
Emma Kay, You Are In London, August 2004.
Gary Hume, Untitled, July 2005.
David Shrigley, Map of the London Underground, February 2006.
Cornelia Parker, Underground Abstract, January 2008.
Pae White, Fragment of a Magic Carpet, Circa 1213, October 2008.
Paul Noble, Troubadour Carrying a Cytiole, March 2009.
Mark Wallinger, Going Underground, May 2008.
Richard long, Earth, September 2009.
It seems that through the years there had been some inconsistency in publications of this wonderful project. I hope that Transport of London will continue pushing this project along and enlist plenty more known or unknown artist to do this. It might not be the “coolest thing”
to collaborate with institutions when dealing with public art and Street art might be “the thing” right now, but I do believe that this is a wonderful way to introduce art and artists to a range of public that would not normally be interested. It brings the beauty of art to a wider audience and that is a very important thing.
I would love to hear which cover you think is best or how you feel about this type of collaborations between artists and public institutions, Leave a comment below to join the discussion.
So what do you think? The world wants to know!