Projects Resources


Wing-sleepers, the third edition of the Night Tube cover by Marianna Simnett, shows a multi-species flock of luminous birds seemingly falling against a velvet night sky. Their glowing forms seep out of the inky black, appearing simultaneously hand drawn and digitally rendered. Simnett works across video, watercolour, installation and performance; her work explores our increasingly digital lifestyle through a lens of embodied experience.

The birds depicted in Wing-sleepers are not falling but rather sleeping during flight. London-based Simnett took the 24-hour context of the Night Tube as her initial point of departure; the species of birds painted, which include gulls, swifts and songbirds, all sleep on the wing during their long migrations. One half of their brain remains active, while the other shuts down, giving them the remarkable ability to sleep and travel at the same time. The birds, much like London, defy the way we commonly conceive of the night.

Simnett is interested in the space between sleep and wakefulness, one that for humans could be categorised by our constant bombardment of information. The perpetual activity of the birds can be read as an allegory for the ceaseless acceleration within the city, their downward stance offers a momentary pause, a drift between destinations.

The species depicted by Simnett were not chosen only for their sleep patterns but also the epic journeys they undertake crossing multiple borders. Wing-sleepers resonates with the current climate of mass migration, providing an indirect metaphor of human movement – how displacement and cultural diversity has become part of a globalised society.

2018 Programme Announcement

Art on the Underground will commission a year-long programme of women artists in 2018, which marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, enabling all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time.

To mark this, Art on the Underground, Transport for London’s public art programme, has commissioned work by an international selection of women artists with highlights including:

  • A major project with British artist Heather Phillipson filling the 80 metre long disused platform at Gloucester Road station
  • A major new billboard commission by British artist Linder at Southwark station
  • Tube map covers by Romanian artist Geta Brătescu, French artist Marie Jacotey and  British artist Jade Montserrat
  • The first commission in a new programme at Brixton station taking the Brixton murals as an initial point of departure, by Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby


Throughout history, women artists have questioned feminist identities, gender roles and sexual politics to push for social change. The programme will give space to the diverse publics that make up our society, addressing structural gender imbalance which is prevalent in the arts and in particular the public arts.

The programme will have mass presence across London; at street level on billboards at Brixton and Southwark, on the cover of over 25 million Tube maps, and in a hugely ambitious sculptural intervention on an 80 metre long platform at Gloucester Road Station. There are almost six million journeys taken on London Underground each day, and Art on the Underground’s 2018 programme will put women at the forefront of public space.

Rainbow Aphorisms

Art on the Underground have worked with Studio Voltaire and the Estate of David McDiarmid to present a selection of the artist’s Rainbow Aphorisms series at Brixton Underground station.

David McDiarmid (1952–1995) was an Australian artist, designer and activist, recognised for his prominent and sustained artistic engagement in issues relating to queer identity and history. Rainbow Aphorisms are a series of printed multiples, produced from 1993 until the artist’s death in 1995 of AIDS–related  illnesses. McDiarmid produced these works in response to his own, and his community’s, experience of the AIDS crisis, and the multiple forms of devastations it manifests –political, emotional, intellectual and medical.

“I wanted to express myself and I wanted to respond to what was going on and I wanted to reach a gay male audience. I wanted to express very complex emotions and I didn’t know how to do it … I was in a bit of a dilemma. I thought, well, how can I get across these complex messages. I didn’t think it was simply a matter of saying gay is good.” – David McDiarmid, 1992.

The Bureaucracy of Angels

Art on the Underground presents ‘The Bureaucracy of Angels’, a 12 minute film by Broomberg & Chanarin from 28 September – 25 November 2017 at King’s Cross St. Pancras Station.

The Bureaucracy of Angels records the demolition of 100 migrant boats in Sicily in the winter of 2016. These boats arrived laden with refugees from North Africa and while their human cargo were either sent home or absorbed into the asylum system, the boats themselves were never returned to their owners, laying beached on the concrete forecourt of Porto Pozallo in Sicily.

Broomberg and Chanarin have a long history of working in war torn countries and areas of conflict. Their research on themes of migration and movements of people lead them naturally to the current migration crisis. The artists visited Sicily a number of times where they were able to explore the area where migrants arrive from perilous journeys across the Mediterranean. They filmed the rescue missions by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) foundation off the coast of Libya as well as the destruction of the boats left to decay once the migrant journeys have been made, in a vast shipping grave yard in Porto Pozallo in Sicily.

The film is narrated by the hydraulic jaws of the digger charged with the job of destroying these boats, tearing them apart into their constituent parts of timber and metal, a process that took forty days to complete. The digger appears in the narrow corridors of the boat yard, on the open sea and in the midst of a rescue operation off the coast of Libya, as a Cantastoria or ‘singing storyteller’, recounting the Sicilian ballad Terra ca nun senti. The song speaks of the fear and pain associated with immigration to and from Europe’s most southerly territory over the last 150 years. The original music ‘Terra ca nun senti’ is by Alberto Piazza and performed by Rosa Balistreri. It plays alongside a new composition by John Woolrich performed by the London Sinfonietta.

The commission will be shown within King’s Cross St. Pancras station in a location close to the exit of the Eurostar, a passageway between the UK and greater Europe, embedding the work within the station and enabling it to be shown to a transient audience.

Film times:

08:00 – 10:00

On the hour: 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00

17:00 – 19:00

Please note on 18 November the film will be turned off to mark the anniversary of the King’s Cross fire.


‘Televox’ is a project by UK based artist Emma Smith, commissioned by Art on the Underground.

Following the route of the new Northern Line Extension (Kennington – Nine Elms – Battersea Power Station), the project opened a line of communication between communities in close geographic proximity. Smith drew inspiration from the history of the telegraph in Nine Elms, which provided a revolution in long distance communication in the nineteenth century. In contrast, the project offers a new form of short distance communication through musical telegraphy between neighbours.

As part of her initial research Smith presented a series of public research activities exploring ideas behind the project at Tate Modern for the Tate Exchange programme between January and March 2017; and identified local residents, businesses and community groups located along the route of the new Northern Line Extension.

Smith walked the length of the Northern Line Extension in three days in June, collecting messages from local residents and businesses about what being a neighbour means to them. Participants were invited to contribute a ten-word message, the equivalent length of an old telegram message.

These messages were translated into Morse code, and then in to a musical score for a pianola.  The placement of the notes and timings were determined according to the geographic location from which the message was given. The performance of the score, written for a Duo-Art Pianola premiered on Saturday 15 July 2017 at the Village Hall in Battersea.

A series of posters based on the coded messages exchanged are now on view across Northern line stations. The score will be available to listen to on the website in late July.


Pimlico Tiles

The construction of the Victoria line began in the early 1960s, with a uniform clean design for each station. Individual character is brought into stations by a unique tile design sitting behind benches on the platforms. At Pimlico station, it was decided that a contemporary artist would be appropriate to link the station to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), just a few minutes walk away. Peter Sedgley was chosen. In the 1960s, Sedgley was developing his ‘op-art’ style of work, optically confusing artworks that challenge your perceptions. He based his design at Pimlico on his painting ‘Go’ of 1968. Many of Sedgley’s works can be found in Tate’s collection. Other bench recess designs along the Victoria line feature work by designers and graphic artists Abram Games, Edward Bawden, Hans Unger, Alan Fletcher, Tom Eckersley, George Smith and Julia Black.

Paolozzi Restoration at Tottenham Court Road station

Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road are one of the most spectacular examples of public art in London. Completed in 1986, the glass mosaics cover 950 sq metres featuring prominently on the Northern line and Central line platforms and an array of interconnecting spaces. The mosaics reflect Paolozzi’s interpretation of the local area and his wider interest in mechanisation, urbanisation, popular culture and everyday life.

As part of a major renovation of the station, the mosaics have undergone significant restoration and conservation work. Around 95 percent of the mosaics have been retained at the station while it underwent a huge expansion to prepare for the introduction of the Elizabeth line and meet the needs of London’s growing population. Restoration and repair work has taken place on the Northern and Central line platforms, and in the Rotunda.

One of the final and most complex aspects of the project was the relocation of the striking mosaic panel from the former Oxford Street entrance. Following intensive planning and consultation with conservation experts, the artwork was carefully removed from the wall in one piece and lowered down a lift shaft to begin its new life at platform level.

Sections of the arches that could not be relocated within the station were transported to the world-renowned Edinburgh College of Art, based in the city where Eduardo Paolozzi studied in 1943 and later became a visiting professor. They are currently being used in teaching a new undergraduate programme, ‘Edinburgh Collections’, and the University is consulting with specialists over how best to reconstruct the mosaics into a new piece of public art.

To find out more about the restoration project, watch our documentary below.

you don't know what nights are like?

The project focuses on night-time workers, with a number of interviews made with those who regularly work nights across a wide range of job roles. Those interviewed often work between 8 to 12 hour shifts, some have been doing so for over 15 years.

Tabrizian has taken an abstract approach to representing night-time workers. She has photographed the image of an individual walking through an empty landscape. The boundary of day to night is captured through a gloaming sky. The landscape appears at first glance to be rural, but is in fact in the city, with glimpsed train tracks and flat blocks beyond.

In a second image, devoid of people, an isolated building stands alone against a wide sky in a dawning light. These images stand in for a wider community of night time workers living as if on the edge of the city.

The works are displayed at huge scale at Southwark station, utilising billboards on The Cut and Blackfriars Road. Sitting prominently in the city centre, the project is an attempt to bring the margin to the centre, to indicate the significance of the people whose work is essential to London’s existence, without which the city would not survive.

Metropolitan Diamonds

From December 2016, Art on the Underground, will launch the latest pocket Tube map, one of the most widely viewed art commissions in the world. For this 25th edition, Art on the Underground have commissioned London-based, British artist Gillian Carnegie to create a new artwork that will be printed on 12 million copies.

The map will feature a pastel work on paper by Carnegie, entitled ‘Metropolitan Diamonds’, which explores the legacy of London Underground’s fabric design. Carnegie’s drawing references the graphic pattern of the Metropolitan line’s moquette fabric (used to cover seats) as well as its title. The muted palette of the work has been directly influenced by a Metropolitan Railway timetable cover dating from 1916, which the artist found in the London Transport Museum’s archive.

Night Tube map commission

To celebrate the launch of Transport for London’s new Night Tube service Art on the Underground has invited London-based artist Samara Scott to make an artwork for the cover of the corresponding pocket map. This new commission coincides with Art on the Underground’s long standing series on the cover of the day map since 2003, its huge print run placing contemporary art in the hands of millions across the city.

For the cover Scott has made a collage reminiscent of the night. Comprised of a plethora of edible and cosmetic products including batteries, an open lipstick tube, seeds, and electrical cables the objects form a sublime image that hints at the cosmic. Created directly from the surface of a domestic scanner, Scott has assembled the objects in an intuitive investigative manner. A glowing bike light shines onto a suspended Ikea bag to create a sweeping purple background, cables wind across the scanner’s surface and felt tip pens balance precariously amidst the scanner’s gathered dust and detritus to invoke a sense of depth, movement and travel that hints at the Underground at night.

Scott’s practice traverses the line between desire and disgust. Attracted to materials with alchemic properties that evolve over the course of an exhibition, growing, glistening, shrivelling then decomposing, her materials have included toothpaste, fabric softener, nail varnish, toilet paper, noodles and beach sand. Exploring society’s cycle of consumption and waste, together the materials create rich seductive surfaces that lure the viewer into the artist’s world of decay and excess.

A limited edition print to celebrate the commission is available from vicky@holdingpage.org