AOTU50-07©DaisyHutchison

First permanent artwork for London Underground since 1984

Full Circle by Knut Henrik Henriksen (b 1970, Oslo) was unveiled today in King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground Station. This is the first permanent artwork to be installed on the network since Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road in 1984. Let’s face it with the amount of time that we spend underground, these type of aesthetic pleasures do more than enhance the surroundings, but transform spaces.

Full Circle has been created as an integral part of the King’s Cross station upgrade. It references the impressive contemporary architectural setting of the modernised Tube. The size and form of Henriksen’s sculpture is frequently defined by such architectural specificities as the height, depth and materials of a given location. These become starting points for his work and in this case the circular end wall of the concourse tunnel is the origin of his concept. The circle is truncated where it meets the floor, implying a ‘lost’ segment of circle beneath. This segment has been ‘reinstated’, conceptually exhumed by Henriksen, and mounted as an integral architectural feature of the end wall. It is fabricated by the station upgrade contractor from the same material (shot-peened stainless steel) as the wall itself. The effect is of a minimalist relief: a subtle, elegant work in metallic grey.

Henriksen’s practise is underpinned by a preoccupation with and critique of key Modernist principles – form fitting purpose and truth to materials; minimal embellishment.

In the 1930s, London Underground’s Managing Director Frank Pick, fired up by European Modernist ideals, championed a unifying principle of the Tube network, which became known as Total Design. Through this concept such elements as the Roundel, the Tube map, the Johnston typeface, artists’ designs for posters and station designs, exemplified by the work of architect Charles Holden, have combined to become central to London Underground’s world renowned identity. Henriksen’s Full Circle brings this vision up to date, seamlessly becoming part of the Underground’s tunnels and passageways.

The installation at King’s Cross St. Pancras is just one of a number of significant permanent artworks commissioned by Art on the Underground for key stations on the network over the coming years. For example, Daniel Buren will create a dramatic new work for the Tottenham Court Road Tube station, which is undergoing a major upgrade.

Incidentally, I am interested to know what you think about these types of public art projects? Do you think it’s worth it? How do we define the value this creates?

For more information about Art on the Underground, please visit www.tfl.gov.uk/art

Image credits
Knut Henrik Henriksen, Full Circle, 2009
King’s Cross St Pancras Underground station
Courtesy the artist and Art on the Underground
Photo: Daisy Hutchison

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