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Transforming transport into global iconic art

By Krista Eleftheriou

Transforming transport into global iconic art
  • Crossrail unveils plans for a permanent line-wide exhibition across eight new London stations
  • International artist Spencer Finch’s 120 metre long A Cloud Index to be built into Crossrail’s Paddington station
  • London’s leading galleries assist in the global search for artwork that will inspire generations to come.

Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, Crossrail, has unveiled plans to create a permanent line-wide art exhibition across eight of its new central and east London stations.

The Culture Line will colour the blank canvas that will be the new Crossrail stations and create a cultural experience for passengers.

Large-scale artworks will be permanently integrated into the new stations to deliver a vibrant transport experience for generations to come. The Culture Line is part of a wider focus to regenerate areas both within and around the new stations.

Crossrail is taking a unique step to work with eight of London’s leading commercial art galleries to assist in inviting world leading collaborative artists to submit proposals for the eight station installations. Crossrail’s stations will become art galleries showcasing large scale artworks by some of the world’s most renowned artists, resulting in the largest collaborative art commissioning process in a generation.

Crossrail Chairman Terry Morgan said: “The scale of the world-class new stations we are building create a blank canvas for artwork produced by leading artists. Working collaboratively with leading art galleries we shall engage eight internationally recognised artists to create a permanent line-wide exhibition across the eight central Crossrail stations. When Crossrail is finished it will not only be a functional transport system, but a cultural destination for everyone to enjoy.”

Crossrail has opened discussions with potential sponsors for The Culture Line, with the successful funders receiving the unique opportunity to have their name permanently associated with iconic artwork that will appear is some of world’s most well known station locations.

Crossrail has unveiled the first artwork to be selected, with international artist Spencer Finch’s A Cloud Index to be built into the 120 metre long and 20 metre wide glazed station canopy at Crossrail’s new Paddington station.

The result will create both a picture of the sky in the tradition of English landscape paintings by artists such as Constable and Turner, but also a taxonomy of more than 25 different types of clouds.

The successful artworks are being selected by an advisory Round Table of representatives from national and local arts organisations and commercial galleries.

Susie Allen, prominent art curator and one of the five arts representatives on the Round Table to select the artwork said: “A Cloud Index by Spencer Finch is intelligent, extremely ambitious in its scale and will be breathtakingly beautiful.  It will constantly change according to the light, the direction of the sun and the time of day. Spencer will be making a scientifically researched seamless collage of the cloud formations, an index of clouds seen in the various UK destinations of the trains leaving Paddington station. It will create a heady and memorable cocktail of science, art and romantic journeys for anyone travelling through this wonderful new Crossrail station.” 

Artist Spencer Finch said: “I am thrilled about this project. No one believes me when I say this, but English clouds are really different from American clouds, they are closer to the horizon, denser, and move across the sky differently. I am so excited to have this opportunity to get to know these English clouds and do something beautiful with them on a grand scale. The opportunity to work on a cloud piece at this scale is totally irresistible, and I am confident that the subtly and complexity of this project will enhance the experience of the beautiful new Paddington Crossrail station.”

Covering a 2318 square metre space and longer than a football field, the glazed canopy will consist of 200 panels each 6.1m by 1.9m. The canopy will be next to the Grade 1 listed existing Paddington station.

Among the galleries already identified to work in partnership with Crossrail are Lisson Gallery for Paddington station, Victoria Miro for Liverpool Street, Gagosian for Tottenham Court Road, White Cube for Bond Street station and Sadie Coles for Farringdon. Crossrail is in discussions with other renowned galleries for the remaining stations at Whitechapel, Canary Wharf and Custom House.

Crossrail launched The Culture Line and unveiled Spencer Finch’s A Cloud Index at a special event at Guildhall at 6:30pm on Monday 25th March, 2013.

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The Culture Line will engage eight world renowned London art galleries, together creating a permanent line-wide exhibition across the eight central Crossrail stations. The result will be a series of eight unique destinations, with an art commission of international importance embedded into the design and architecture of each station.

Each artists will be invited to submit proposals that incorporate The Culture Line’s Three Big Ideas:

Art & Architecture

Working in partnership with the architectural design teams and the manufacturers of the keynote materials selected for the build, artists will have an opportunity to use these materials, while integrating their art into the fabric of the Crossrail build.

The River of Light

Crossrail will be able to use 21st-century technology to host light installations or stream digital art through the eight stations and along the whole Crossrail line.

The Urban Gallery

From free-standing sculpture to seating, from way-finding to place-making, Crossrail’s Urban Gallery will put the spotlight on individual, specifically-located art and design works in public spaces within and surrounding the new stations.

The Culture Line will be funded through private sponsorship. No public funds are available for these art installations within Crossrail’s £14.8 billion budget.

Visit for further information about the Crossrail Art Programme.

The Advisory Round Table members for the Paddington station selection have volunteered their time, and include: Michael Cassidy CBE, Non-Executive Director for Crossrail andChairman of the Museum of London; Colin Tweedy LVO OBE, Former Chief Executive of Art & Business and current Managing Director of The Building Centre; Susie Allen MA RCA, Founding Director of Artwise; Kate Bush, Head of Barbican Art Galleries; and Ann Elliott, an independent curator and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. This panel works together with the station architects, Weston Williamson, Futurecity and Crossrail to select inspiring art for the station.

Spencer Finch (b. 1962) has exhibited internationally at major institutions. Solo exhibitions include Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2011); Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, MA (2011); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2010); Frac des Pays de la Loire,  Carquefou, France (2010); Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2009); Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee (2008); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2007). Group shows include: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA (2011); Folkestone Triennial, Folkestone (2011); Hayward Gallery, London (2010); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice (2009); The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004). Selected public projects include High Line public commission (2009) and Park Avenue Armory, New York (2008).

Futurecity is a public art curatorial consultancy that works with the property sector, award winning artists, architects, and the best landscape architects and engineers. Futurecity is providing specialists strategic support to Crossrail, helping develop The Culture Line concept and connecting Crossrail with eminent galleries and artists.

Lisson Gallery, founded in 1967 by Nicholas Logsdail, is one of a small number of pioneering galleries in the UK, Europe and the United States to champion a generation of artists who were transforming the way art was made and presented.  Over the past forty years Lisson Gallery has built on this foundation, identifying and supporting succeeding generations of artists, each with a radical and distinctive approach to the artistic possibilities of their times. 

About Crossrail

The total funding envelope available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city. Crossrail services are due to commence through central London in 2018.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.