The Central Line

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin, June 2012
18 May 2012 – 18 December 2012

Part of the following series:

Tube Map

Well known for her deeply revealing works, Tracey Emin was commissioned by Art on the Underground to make the 16th pocket Tube map cover for the London Olympic and Paralympic year.

The artwork, entitled The Central line, features a chirping bird sitting on a ‘branch’ of the Northern line.

When Emin was invited to make a new work for the cover, she was interested in the prospect of making something that would be distributed amongst such a large and diverse audience and that would be an integral element of a travel tool that millions pick up and use every day. She aimed to create an image that would reflect the personal and intimate nature of this object, and would make people to feel reassured about travelling on the Underground.

The artwork made by Emin utilises a technique frequently seen as part of her practise, a line drawing made as a mono-print. It depicts a bird sitting on a branch of the Northern line, which is connected to the Central line. The clear link to the Tube map, without the use of the colours, and to nature, combine two elements that Emin felt would offer her audience something compelling yet comforting to contemplate.

The bird as a motif has been important in Emin’s work for many years. Her focus on the Central line is also personal to her because it’s the line she uses most frequently; it takes her from her home in East London to the centre of the City. She has also added the names of a handful of stations and places that represent something of importance for her, for example, Oxford Circus, Victoria, and Shoreditch. The personal references within her artworks have been at the very core of Emin’s artistic output throughout her career and the use of the hand-drawn image defines one of the most important strands in her work.


  • Adding this to twitter great info.


  • What a scruffy talentless doodle it is. It makes the tube map look second hand and scribbled on while still brand new. Obviously Ms Emin has got exceedingly lazy in the last few years. What a complete waste of money. 10 out of 10 for who ever wrote the pretentious twaddle about it though “two elements that Emin felt would offer her audience something compelling yet comforting to contemplate” Get real – it is rubbish.


  • I love it. So sweet and kind and different. Every time a joy to see the new designs.

    KAthrin Singer

  • Tracey has got Boring – I think it’s more than great to have artists working with the Underground. I hope the Paolozzi murals will still be at Tottenham Ct Rd!!!


  • You must be mad to take such rubbish seriously. I despair when remembering the great art London Transport used to publish!

    An oldie

  • I LOVE the new tube map cover. I collect them and I was delighted to see this lovely drawing this morning. One more to add to the collection. Yay!


  • Ironic that TFL’s contractors have spent the last 2 years cutting down all the trees which border the Northern Line. Where will the birds sit to sing? Alas, nothing to smile about!

    Pat Caplan

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