As announced earlier in the summer, the striking mosaics at London’s Tottenham Court Road underground station by 20th Century British artist and sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (who died aged 81 in 2005 and is always described as ‘prolific’), have been rescued from destruction as the station undergoes its £400m overhaul. An online petition was signed by over 8,000 people and the Twentieth Century Society helped to secure the tiled work’s next home at Edinburgh University.
Being able to see such glorious art work for free every time you were catching the tube at the busy London station was a real treat. Now as the mosaics begin their next journey – firstly with their reconstruction at the Edinburgh College of Art where Paolozzi studied and later lectured – we take a trail through other public places where you can, without cost, see the Leith-born artist’s work.
Modern Two Gallery, Edinburgh
The mighty Vulcan here has been standing in the cafe at Dean Gallery – now known as Modern Two Gallery – in Edinburgh since 1999. Above his head are some intricate ceiling panels, which were originally commissioned by architect and writer Michael Spens for Cleish Castle in Perth and Kinross but are now for your enjoyment as you pick on a gallery-cafe salad.
Elsewhere in the museum is a reconstruction of the great artist’s studio – revealing him to be a strict observer of organised chaos.
The Hunterian Gallery, Glasgow
In 1981, the year after Paolozzi was commissioned to make the mosaics for Tottenham Court Road, beautiful cast aluminium panels by the artist were installed as entrance doors to the painting gallery at Glasgow’s public museum, The Hunterian.
The Hunterian was the first museum with a gallery of paintings to open in Britain (in 1807) and is especially famous for its Whistler and Mackintosh collections – the world’s largest permanent displays of both. But the doors are also breathtaking and if you head outside to the courtyard you can also find Paolozzi’s striking bronze sculpture, Rio (below).
The Redditch Shopping centre, West Midlands
A shopping centre in the West Midlands sounds like an unlikely destination for notable art. But, also in 1981, Redditch Development Corporation commissioned and – with the local Needles Industry Group and the Arts Council – funded Paolozzi to make 12 mosaic panels for Milward Square in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre, Redditch. The work was unveiled on 19 Apr 1983 by the Queen and Sir William Rees-Mogg, then chairman of the Arts Council.
Colourful panels depict the history of the local industry with nods to the shape and the pattern of needle packets, the machinery of the needle industry and scenes of nature typically found in tapestries and fabrics, such as butterflies and lizards. An aeroplane, spaceship and other mechanical and electronic imagery, symbolises the manufacturing progress of the town. All of it a wonderful, colourful montage to ogle on the way to M&S.
The Line, East London
A new addition to London’s art scene, The Line is the city’s first (free) walk dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It runs from the O2 arena in Greenwich roughly following the Greenwich Meridian to the Olympic Park in Stratford. Stumble across it or plan your route on the path where you can take in currently 14 loaned works (there are 30 in the planning) by artists including Martin Creed, Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley and Sir Paolozzi – another of his Vulcans.
Lit up at night, the sculptures bring life to the canals, waterways and docklands of a previously rather empty corner of London.
The British Library and The Economist Plaza, London
There are a few other spots in London where you can see some Paolozzi in passing. One being the statue of Issac Newton bent over a compass in the courtyard of The British Library at Kings Cross.
There’s also The Economist Plaza in St James’s where the artist’s welded aluminium sculptures, Suwasa, Trishula and Kalasan can be found. All were commissioned by the plaza’s architects Alison and Peter Smithson in the 1960s, who together with Paolozzi, helped to found The Independent Group of architects, designers, theorists and artists who met at the ICA.
Having only recently returned to The Economist Plaza, the sculptures spent a portion of their lives as a playground outside Terence Conran’s Habitat store in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. So bear in mind, if you find yourself trying to resist the urge to have a little climb, that this is the sort of treatment they’re used to…