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.
Paolozzi’s designs at Tottenham Court Road capture urban industrial reality of the late Twentieth Century; cogs, pistons and wheels whirr through the station. Cameras, saxophones and electronics reference the music and technical shops of Soho. Egyptian images were inspired by the nearby British Museum, and butterflies are included as the artist’s recollection of Turkish Baths. The Northern line designs have a subdued use of colour, with abstract geometric designs. The Rotunda space features more representational imagery, a ‘running man’ Orwellian commuter, ethnographic masks and mechanical cow and chicken, a representation of modern urban life.
Paolozzi’s public art can be seen at a number of locations around the city, including next to Pimlico station and the piazza of the British Library. Art on the Underground has partnered with the Whitechapel Gallery to create a map of the artist’s work around the Capital, and a major retrospective of the artist will run at the Whitechapel Gallery from February 2017.