The tube loves throwing money at art almost as much as it loves making money from big corporate advertising.
Platform for Art is TFL’s public art programme and its latest commission sees Turner Prize winner Liam Gillick’s work on the new cover for the tube map - the design shows the words of the date of the last day in London without the Underground network: Friday 9 January 1863, done in the 12 colours of the different tube lines.
TFL have also invested some considerable quids in Platform for Art online – an interactive website that takes you, in the form of a sparsely animated creature with a balloon, on a tour of newly commissioned Flash art. Navigation around the site is, cunningly, via a virtual tube journey. It’s cute, it really is. Look.
All this, though, is a far cry from the classy art work the tube used to spend money on to advertise itself. Back in the 1920s and 30s London Underground commissioned the top poster artists of the time to create stylish Art Deco images to promote tube travel. A major collection of these went on sale at Bonhams auction house this week fetching incredible prices. Private collectors bid up a call centre operator's salary over a 1931 poster, titled “Play Between 6 and 12 - The Bright Hours - Go By Underground” - £14,400 in all, whilst a World War II poster warning of bomb attacks fetched £9,360.
Hard to imagine any of TFL’s latest efforts provoking such avid collector desire in 80 years’ time but, who knows, perhaps the infamous “Tube Tips for Women” poster will have attained truly legendary status by that time.