Art on the Underground’s programme for 2024 comprises major new works from six contemporary artists. Since the early Twentieth century, artists, designers and architects have been at the forefront of London Underground’s presence in the city. Working with six contemporary artists across the year, Art on the Underground’s commissions consider this history and the collective experience of travel: through the stations themselves and the communities around them. The 2024 programme continues Art on the Underground’s commitment to creating critical frameworks for meaningful and expansive conversations and outcomes with artists, publics and public space.
The 2024 programme features new commissions and collaborative audio works that intervene at St James’s Park at 55 Broadway, London Underground’s historic headquarters, interrogate the organisation’s history of moquette fabric design, as well as new commissions at Brixton and at Heathrow. In its breadth and presence across London, the 2024 programme reflects on the history of London Underground whilst giving voice to the pluralism and movement of the city today.
Art on the Underground’s 2024 programme features major commissions situated across London including:
- British artist Joy Gregory will expand on her photographic artwork for the 39th pocket Tube map cover with a series of artworks created in dialogue with the local community for Heathrow Terminal 4 station in June.
- London and Beirut-based artist Joe Namy will produce a new sound work with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme, bringing a new audio work to the London Underground network in July.
- British artist Rita Keegan will develop a new commission exploring the history of moquette design for the pocket Tube map in August.
- British artist duo Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings will create a major permanent mosaic work at historic St James’s Park station in October.
- Leading British artist Claudette Johnson will create a new mural artwork at Brixton station in November.
June 2024: Joy Gregory, Heathrow Terminal 4
Art on the Underground will unveil a new series of artworks in the rotunda at Heathrow Terminal 4 Underground station on 20 June 2024 by leading artist and photographer Joy Gregory, whose artwork features on the cover of the pocket Tube Map from December 2023.
Renowned for her influence on British feminist photography and social justice movements, Gregory uses photographic media to unearth and unravel forgotten cultural, historical, and political narratives.
For her new commission, Gregory is interested in themes of migration and plant knowledge. Envisaging Heathrow as a gateway to London and seeking to honour the stories and futures of people whose realities are often maligned or misrepresented, Gregory will create a new series of photographic artworks in dialogue with the local community. This commission follows her pocket Tube Map cover in December 2023, A Little Slice of Paradise, which was inspired by TfL’s history of staff cultivated station gardens.
Through a series of workshops centring around plant knowledge, photography and food with refugees and asylum seekers in Hillingdon, Gregory’s commission will give space to the stories of individual Londoners, illuminating the possibilities of migration and offering an indelible trace of the pathways, languages and cultures which coalesce in the city.
July 2024: Audio Commission, Joe Namy
London and Beirut based artist, educator and composer Joe Namy has been commissioned to present a new audio work for London Underground in Summer 2024. Namy works collaboratively across mediums in sound, performance, radio and video. Following on from the successful launch of the Art on the Underground sound commission programme in August 2023, this second commission will expand this unique community collaboration, focussing on the social construction of music and organised sound, and the processes of translation within this.
Art on the Underground’s audio commission series is developed as part of a new strand of collaborative, community art commissioning working with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR). This programme realises an annual sound commission developed through an engagement with the CCSaR programme and the communities around Underground stations to spotlight the work of organisations who face structural barriers to sustaining space in the capital and to create and share resonances from them across the city.
August 2024: Rita Keegan, Pocket Tube Map
The August 2024 pocket Tube Map will feature a new artwork by London based artist Rita Keegan. Keegan co-founded the Brixton Art Gallery in 1983, curating Mirror Reflecting Darkly, the first exhibition by The Black Women Artists collective. A commitment to archival practices led Keegan to establish the Women Artists of Colour Index (WOCI) at the Women Artists Slide Library in 1985, a unique collection of slides and papers relating to the emergence of Black women artists in the UK in the mid-1980s.
Keegan’s work explores memory, history, dress and adornment through textiles, painting, copy art and media experimentation. For this new commission, Keegan is looking into London Underground’s archive of Tube seat moquette fabrics to identify a textile design that is rumoured to have been produced by the late Althea McNish. Althea McNish is one of the most important names in British textile design history, her designs included public art commissions, murals, interiors and set design. This archival research with London Underground is the foundation of Keegan’s commission, which also presents her photographic images of London from the 1980s. The publication of the pocket Tube Map aligns with the centenary of McNish’s birth, to be marked in 2024.
October 2024: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings at St James’s Park station
Launching in autumn 2024 Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings will create a new permanent artwork for St James’s Park station, the only Grade I listed station on the Tube network. It will be the first time the artist duo has worked in mosaic and will feature six panels, each measuring 1.5 x 1 metres, prominently installed in the station’s atrium.
Quinlan and Hastings’s collaborative practice is an ongoing exploration into the connections between visibility, access, sexual identity and the gendered nature of urban landscapes. Their work explores the power dynamics within the city, and how to lay claim to public space. Their recent output has focused on fresco painting, a traditional medium often associated with historic and religious artworks. For this new public commission, the work will be realised in mosaic, a material frequently employed in post-war civic spaces. The central London location of St James’s Park was chosen specifically due to the pairs’ interest in the political charge of the area. Flanked by the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, it is a zone of power and protest, with Trafalgar Square and Green Park in proximity.
Their permanent work will draw from the rich history of its location, situated directly below 55 Broadway, London Underground’s iconic Headquarters for over 80 years. Designed by Charles Holden and completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in London when it opened, and was immediately considered radical, in part thanks to the sculptures carved into its stone façade, by contemporary artists including Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore.
Their commission is inspired by Walter Benjamin’s Thesis on the Philosophy of Painting (1940)* in which Benjamin describes the painting Angelus Novus by Paul Klee as an image of the ‘angel of history’. Quinlan and Hastings’s artwork for St James’s Park will consider a period of political nostalgia, situated between Westminster – where the future is debated – and the Royal palaces, where the past is preserved.
November 2024: Claudette Johnson at Brixton station
Renowned British artist Claudette Johnson will launch a major new artwork at Brixton station in November 2024. A founding member of the BLK Art Group in Wolverhampton in the early 1980s, Johnson is one of the foremost figurative artists working in Britain today.
Addressing the personal as political and challenging harmful stereotypes of representation through figuration and gesture, Johnson’s work gives space and power to the presence of Black women and men and offers a mediation on shared humanity.
Johnson works primarily in large-scale drawings, using a range of media, from gouache and watercolour to oil pastel and pencil. Often captured from life, Johnson’s figures are monolithic in scale yet intimately encountered. In bold, gestural, and sometimes distorted form, they attest to the histories and stories the body holds and honour the Black experience.
Johnson will be the eighth artist in the series of commissions at Brixton Tube station which, since 2018, has responded 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.
Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, said: “Bringing leading international artists to the spaces of the Tube in partnership with Reed, our 2024 programme invites a focus on the art and design history of London Underground, whilst also exploring the contemporary terrain of London today. The commissions ask us to reflect again on our histories; on whose voices are foregrounded and whose are overlooked and raises questions on how we might interrogate that history today.”
Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “Art on the Underground is renowned around the world for transforming our Tube into a large public art gallery. Next year will see the partnership between contemporary artists, communities and history continue, bringing to life stories of diversity, culture and design from across London. I am confident that these striking artworks will be a welcome addition for commuters and visitors as they travel through the city, helping to build a better London for everyone.”
*Walter Benjamin (1892 –1940) was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic, media theorist, and essayist. In the ninth thesis of his 1940 essay Theses on the Philosophy of History, Benjamin describes a painting by his friend, the artist Paul Klee, Angelus Novus (1920) as an image of the angel of history:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.