MOSAICS created by one of Scotland’s greatest artists for the London Underground have been saved for the nation and will be reinstalled in his home city.
Edinburgh University will be restoring and reassembling Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s works, which have adorned the walls of Tottenham Court Road station for the past 30 years.
The mosaics were created by Paolozzi, one of the key figures in the Pop Art movement, in 1984 and covered about 1,000 metres. They contain references to computers, George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, rushing commuters and objects from the nearby British Museum.
They have been gifted to the university, which already holds around 150 Paolozzi works, by the Transport for London (TFL) authority in the wake of a furore over their removal to make way for an overhaul of the station.
Although the vast majority of Paolozzi’s mosaics in the station are being kept intact, the murals installed in arches above three escalators were controversially removed from the main concourse earlier this year.
More than 8,000 people backed a petition, describing the mosaics as “one of London’s most loved pieces of public art,” calling for the murals – which famously formed arches over the station’s escalators – to be saved, along with a large decorative panel at the Oxford Street entrance.
TFL has reached an agreement with the university which will eventually see the mosaics above the escalators go on public display there.
Before then the pieces, which will be used to help with teaching, including students on a new undergraduate course, and to help with conservation training at the university.
They will also be photographed and digitally mapped over the next few years before being reassembled by students, researchers and ceramics conservators. TFL said the mosaic piece from the Oxford Street entrance would be fully conserved and relocated to a new site within the station.
Neil Lebeter, curator of Edinburgh University’s art collections, said: “The mosaics will be a very important addition to our art collection. We expect the murals to become an important part of the campus – a major draw for students and the wider public.”
Eleanor Pinfield, London Underground’s head of art, said: “We’re proud of our artistic and architectural heritage, and understand our key role in preserving it. We have worked hard to preserve the Paolozzi mosaics, with the vast majority remaining in situ. Working with the university, we now have a fitting home for the remainder.”
Paolozzi, who was born in Leith in 1924, was the only son of an ice cream shop owner. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art, heading to London to St Martin’s School of Art and then Slade School of Art, before moving to Paris, in 1947. He went on to be regarded as one of the most important versatile sculptors in post-war Britain, although he always rejected the Pop Art label. He died ten years ago.
Toby Treves, a trustee of the Paolozzi Foundation, which the artist set up in 1994, said: “Eduardo Paolozzi was one of the most important British artists of the late 20th century, whose art captured the breadth of the modern world.
“His work at Tottenham Court Road station has delighted Tube passengers for over 30 years and will continue to do so far into the future.
“The work with Edinburgh University will provide a fitting home for the pieces that could not be accommodated at the station as it is modernised.
“It will also serve to further promote public appreciation of the fine arts and the extraordinary contribution of Eduardo Paolozzi.”