15 for 150: contemporary art goes underground


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the London Tube – the world’s first underground network. To celebrate the occasion Art on the Underground has invited 15 leading contemporary artists to create images for posters and limited-edition prints with their individual interpretations of the Tube. This is the largest series of artists’ posters commissions by Art on Underground yet with its aim that the “new artworks will enrich the daily journeys of our millions of commuters”.

The Tube has had some great posters in the past promoting their services but somehow this leaves me slightly worried. Remember the 2012 Olympic art poster project?




We had some heated discussions in the office about these posters and I recall a lot of uproar in the design community for not being included in the project. It was a project for fine artists and tried something that was accomplished for the 1972 Olympic Games – produce contemporary art posters and prints for sale to commemorate (and finance) the event. But where the 1972 series succeeded, in my eyes the 2012 posters failed visually (I don’t know about the financial aspect).




So with the 15 for 150 project I fear the same. What made previous posters so powerful and memorable was the way the designers and artists used illustrations, colours and layout to convey a message. It had to be straightforward and catchy because you only get a couple of seconds to get the attention of passers by and be remembered. And maybe that was the secret – they had a story to tell which is something that’s completely lost on me looking at some examples of the new series I found on the Internet.


So it might be just me and my occasional non-understanding of contemporary art but looking at some posters of past decades I’d rather see them again on my way underground. But judge for yourselves.




Participating artists of 15 for 150: Pablo Bronstein, Melissa Gordon, Runa Islam, Idris Khan, Sarah Lucas, Goshka Macuga, Robert Orchardson, Martha Rosler, Nedko Solakov, Frances Stark, Corin Sworn, Wolfgang Tillmans, Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner and Haegue Yang.

The posters will go up on prominent sites at four central London stations: Gloucester Road, Southwark, St. James’s Park and London Bridge in June.

Click here for more information

[all images subject to copyright]


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