Art on the Underground’s programme for 2023 comprises ambitious and critically engaged new works. Responding to London Underground as a constantly changing site of multiple histories, communities, actions and reactions, the 2023 programme will present new works that address this daily reality through performance, sound, visual and sculptural interventions.
Art on the Underground is committed to working with a diverse range of contemporary artists to reflect on how we move through and have a collective experience of public space. How might an artwork point to, embody and be a part of these conversations? What does it mean to encounter this work in public space? Art on the Underground continue to interrogate these questions, bringing leading international artists to the city to reflect London’s diversity.
Art on the Underground’s 2023 programme features major commissions situated across London including:
- A major project with British artist and Turner Prize nominee Monster Chetwynd along the 60 metre long disused platform at Gloucester Road station on 18 May 2023.
- Barby Asante will develop her seminal work ‘Declaration of Independence’, with a major performance in September 2023 at Stratford station
- For his first international public commission, Italian artist Jem Perucchini will create a new artwork for Brixton station in November 2023.
- American artist Sharon Hayes will create a new artwork for Holland Park station and the 38th pocket Tube map.
- The launch of a series of artist-led collaborations with the Mayor’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team, bringing new audio works to the city. The first commission in the summer of 2023 will be with Shenece Oretha.
- Canadian-Korean artist Zadie Xa will create new work for Aldgate East Tube station in March 2023 which focuses on the mythologies of the Tube environment, in dialogue with her installation at the neighbouring The Whitechapel Gallery.
- British artist and photographer Joy Gregory will create new commissions for the pocket Tube Map.
In May 2023, Art on the Underground launches an ambitious, multifaceted commission with Turner-prize nominated artist Monster Chetwynd at Gloucester Road Tube station. The project comprises a 60-metre-long sculptural installation featuring three dimensional creatures including frogs, salamanders, tortoises and tadpoles and a new film. Known for her joyous and irreverent artworks, Chetwynd takes as her starting point the engineering feat of the Crystal Palace, built in 1851, and its design by gardener turned architect Joseph Paxton.
Paxton’s design for the Crystal Palace drew inspiration from the veined structure of the Amazonian waterlilies that were housed at Chatsworth House, where he was head gardener. Inspired by Paxton’s innovation, Chetwynd will create a series of five (4-meter diameter) disc shaped sculptures along the length of the disused platform at Gloucester Road station. These are populated with three dimensional creatures; frogs, salamanders, tortoises and tadpoles, which appear to be constructing sections of the Crystal Palace. Chetwynd’s project explores the linked origin stories of Gloucester Road station, constructed in 1868, with the vast programme of Victorian-era cultural redevelopment that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851.
In her new film Chetwynd attempts to represent different forms of truth, unravelling the story behind Paxton’s ingenuity through a series of playfully staged interviews with historians and academics. Shot on 35mm film by artist-filmmaker Margaret Salmon for Chetwynd, the artist plays the flying ‘fact-hungry witch’ with a dedicated enthusiasm for information. Featuring a troupe of performers, she uses humour to playfully subvert societal norms and unpick the political and colonial implications of the Crystal Palace’s history. Chetwynd’s commission for Gloucester Road station builds on her track record of creating public artworks at bombastic scale and with childlike joy, resituating ideas within an adult field of reference to engage Art on the Underground’s huge and varied audience.
A major commission with Barby Asante will work with Transport for London (TfL) station colleagues on a new iteration of Asante’s seminal performative artwork, Declaration of Independence. Declaration of Independence is an ongoing performance/forum that brings together a group of women and non-binary people to reflect on how the political affects the personal, considering how the social and cultural implications of historic declarations, policies and legislations impact on their everyday lives. Asante will develop the project through working with a range of TfL operational staff in a series of writing and creative workshops that will produce a collective script for a new Declaration of Independence. This script will be performed by the artist and the collective of station staff to an audience of thousands at Stratford station, with visual outcomes at both Stratford and Notting Hill Gate in September 2023. This collaborative, performative and dialogic work will be Asante’s first major commission in public space and will draw on her ongoing commitment to the politics of place, space, memory and the histories and legacies of colonialism.
For his first major public commission, Jem Perucchini will create a new artwork for Brixton Tube station, launching in November 2023. Through his distinctive painting style Perucchini’s practice conjures Early Renaissance art; his works are like windows into a parallel world, with luminous light, ethereal figures and a meditative quality which will be reflected in this new mural. The artist’s work is concerned with the active role painting has in the construction of historical fictions and archetypes. Moreover, it questions the hierarchy of narratives, construction of national identity and how histories are privileged or erased. Jem Perucchini’s superimposition of references underscores how history can be seen and interpreted from multiple viewpoints. He will be the seventh artist in the series of commissions at Brixton Tube station since 2018 with the programme inviting artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the local murals painted in the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.
American artist Sharon Hayes uses video, performance, sound, public sculpture, and textiles to disentangle prevailing histories and examine the intersections between time, politics and speech. Hayes’s multidisciplinary practice is centrally engaged with feminist history, LGBTQ+ activism and the transformative power of language. For the 38th pocket Tube map commission, Hayes will examine UK and London-based newspaper archives and the history of LGBTQ+ activism and protest in the UK. Using collage, Hayes will explore the differing visual, sonic, and historical registers of language as it is disseminated and re-disseminated across time and space. Through the prosaic and the poetic, Hayes’s work considers the political resistance of words and invites the viewer into the intimate and radical politics of common understanding. An expansion of Hayes’s Tube map commission will be on view in poster sites at Holland Park station from May 2023.
Joy Gregory will take on the pocket Tube map commission for its 39th iteration. Gregory is a London-based artist and photographer whose work explores gender, identity, race, social history, marginalised cultures and lost languages. Renowned for her influence on the Black British photography and social justice movements of the 1980s and 90s, Gregory uses photographic media to re-create forgotten cultural, historical and political narratives. For her pocket Tube map commission, Gregory is interested in exploring the unique context and reach of TfL, its communities and staff, and their creative lives drawing on her camera-less photographic techniques and most recently, her work with embroidered textiles to re-imagine historical narratives around the role of women.
Working with the Mayor’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team, London-based multidisciplinary artist Shenece Oretha will work closely with a number of community spaces in London to produce collective audio artworks to be heard in London Underground spaces and the communities around stations. This new commission will invite people to think about and appreciate listening and sound as an embodied and collective practice.
Canadian-Korean artist Zadie Xa will create new work for Aldgate East station in March 2023 which focuses on mythologies of the Tube environment and history, in dialogue with her solo exhibition at the neighbouring Whitechapel Gallery.
The new artwork by Zadie Xa installed at Aldgate East station will expand on themes and ideas from her commissioned exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery entitled House Gods, Animal Guides and Five Ways 2 Forgiveness, a new body of work that draws inspiration from diverse fields such as ecology, science-fiction and folklore. For Aldgate East, Xa will specifically look at the historical use by TfL of the mythical Griffin used as an official symbol by London Transport in 1933 and in use as part of the public face of the organisation up to at least the late 1950s. Xa’s work, launching on 21 March 2023, imagines the Griffin as a guardian at the entrance of Aldgate East, a custodian of the station or a gate-line sentry.
Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, commented: “Bringing leading international artists to the spaces of London Underground, the 2023 programme invites a focus on the collective experience of the Tube environment, exploring the imaginary and physical terrain of the spaces we travel through every day. These major new artworks re-cast the Tube as a site for collective voices, for contemplation and revelation and for the retelling of stories. The 2023 programme brings unmissable artworks to the city, encouraging us all to explore and enjoy what London has to offer.”
Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor, Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “Art on the Underground is a jewel in our transport crown – renowned around the world for transforming our Tube into a huge public art gallery. 2023 will see more bold and inspiring commissions from a wide range of contemporary artists, from Turner Prize nominee Monster Chetwynd to Italian artist Jem Perucchini, including Barby Asante’s seminal work ‘Declaration of Independence’ at Stratford station. It’s another example of how we are working to build a better London for everyone.”