London Underground has completed the restoration of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s iconic mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station, with 95 per cent of the originals retained during recent work to expand and modernise the station.
The mosaics were originally completed in 1986 and are widely considered to be one of the most spectacular examples of post-war public art.
Covering a total of 950 square metres, they contain references to London’s entertainment culture, rushing commuters, and urban economy, and reflect their location in a major station in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, which has partnered with Whitechapel Gallery to create a map of the artist’s work around the capital, said: “The restoration process has been a painstaking one, but today we can see the expansive beauty of the work once again.”
Wherever possible the original tiles have been reused, and where new tiles have been required they have been closely colour-matched using the same process as the originals.
The rotunda at Tottenham Court Road has been enhanced with new lighting, and throughout the station the repair and cleaning of the mosaics will be viewable by the estimated 150,000 visitors to the station every day. This is expected to rise to 200,000 when services on the new Elizabeth Line begin in 2018.
Pinfield added: “The former Oxford Street panel is a key part of Paolozzi’s vision for the station, drawing together many of the themes seen in the wider station artwork, and I am delighted to see it back on public view.”
Following intensive planning and consultation with conservation experts, the artwork was carefully removed from the wall in one piece. It was then lowered down a lift shaft to its new location at platform level.
Sections of the mosaics that could not be relocated within the station were transported to Edinburgh College of Art where Paolozzi studied in 1943 and later became a visiting professor. They are currently being used in teaching a new undergraduate programme, Edinburgh Collections.
Other examples of Paolozzi’s work can be seen at a number of locations around the city, including next to Pimlico station and the piazza of the British Library.
As the modernisation work at Tottenham Court Road nears completion, Paolozzi’s mosaics are being joined by work by conceptual artist Daniel Buren. In addition, artists Douglas Gordon and Richard Wright have also been commissioned to create large-scale artworks to be displayed in the Elizabeth Line part of the station.
As part of its partnership with Art on the Underground, Whitechapel Gallery will host an Eduardo Paolozzi exhibition, 16 February – 14 May 2017. www.whitechapelgallery.org
1. Oxford Street panel new location. Copyright Transport for London
2. Central Line platforms post restoration. Copyright: Thierry Bal
3. Oxford Street panel pre restoration. Copyright Transport for London
4. Oxford Street panel during works. Copyright Transport for London
5. Rotunda post restoration. Photo: Thierry Bal. Copyright: Thierry Bal
5. Oxford Street panel new location. Copyright Transport for London