London Tube Commissions All-Woman Slate of Artists for 2018

Previous Art on the Underground exhibits showcased works like this one by Chiho Aoshima in the Gloucester Road Tube. (Credit: Flickr)

An international roster of all-women artists will be front and center in next year’s underground exhibit for London’s program for public art on the subway.

The works were commissioned by Transport for London’s public art program, known as Art on the Underground, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.K.’s “Representation of the People” Act, which granted voting rights to all men over 21 and women over 30 who owned a suitable amount of property. (This covered about 40 percent of women in the U.K.; suffrage was granted to all women over 21 ten years later.) The installations by six celebrated women artists will decorate Tube stations and maps and even activate disused platforms. The works will also tie in to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s gender-equality campaign, #BehindEveryGreatCity, which was revealed late last year.

The program was announced last December but has only recently gotten underway, with an installation by British artist Heather Phillipson scheduled to debut June 7. The Tube map cover by Romanian nonagenarian artist Geta Brătescu was commissioned in spring 2018. Other art will debut later this year.

Some 6 million riders take the London Underground daily.

The disused platform at Gloucester Road Tube Station, which has been out of service since the 1970s, will showcase “the most ambitious project the program has ever delivered,” Art on the Underground curator Kiera Blakey told DesignCurial: Phillipson’s installation, “my name is lettie eggsyrub.” Featuring 12-foot-tall egg sculptures and twelve video screens, the work addresses themes of fertility, overproduction, exploitation and fragility, using video-game-style graphics to “magnify eggs and avian body parts to monstrous proportions,” the Art on the Underground website says.

In addition to Phillipson’s installation and the map cover by Brătescu, the yearlong program also features:

  • A “Night Tube” map cover by London-based French artist Marie Jacotey.
  • A new work at Brixton station by Nigerian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby.
  • A street-level billboard at Southwark station and another Tube map cover, by post-punk artist Linder.
  • And an as-yet-unspecified work by Nina Wakeford.

Eleanor Pinfield, head of Art on the Underground, said in a statement: “The 2018 programme is an opportunity to bring artists of an international renown to the spaces of our city — not because of, or in spite of, or in celebration of gender. But, because these artists have powerful voices for today and question dominant power structures of the city in myriad ways.…Art on the Underground will use its series of commissions to reframe public space, to allow artists’ voices of diverse backgrounds and generations to underline the message that there is no single women’s voice in art — there are however many urgent voices that can challenge the city’s structures of male power.”

Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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