Monday, February 6, 2017
Tottenham Court Road, London
Murals on the move
One would have to be unobservant (or very lucky) to have spent any time in Central London over the last few years and not come across the Crossrail development. This enormous underground engineering project has disrupted the capital in all sorts of ways, and one of the centres of this disruption is the complete rebuilding and massive expansion of Tottenham Court Road underground station.
One thing that I’ve been aware of for some time is that the unique and very special tiled decoration by Eduardo Paolozzi is being altered in the process. These murals are perhaps the greatest work of public art by this pioneer of Pop Art, a riot of colour* in the sometimes dull world of the underground, and, at about 23 years old, part of our history already. Some parts of the station with Paolozzi tiles are being demolished or rebuilt, so some sections of the mural have been removed to Edinburgh, where the National Galleries already have a large Paolozzi collection and where Paolozzi was a student and, later in life, a teacher. The rest of the tiles are being cleaned, restored, and in some cases moved from one part of the station to another.
This has been done with great care, and the video to which I link below, produced by Transport for London, shows something of the enormous effort in planning, engineering, and work involved. True, part of the intention of the video is PR for TfL. But it shows that the professionals who have worked on the project are just that, professionals, and their devotion to the project, their commitment to the murals, and the pains they have taken shine through. What’s more, the video gives a better impression of this enormous work of art than I can in one or two photographs. The artist’s feel for colour, his sense of musical and visual rhythm and syncopation, his inspiration from all kinds of places and things from jazz to sweetshops, is vividly caught. This station is going to be impressive and the Paolozzi murals will play their part. And that will be some recompense for the inconvenience that, as they say, this work may have caused.
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*And a feast of monochrome pattern on the Northern Line platforms.