Tottenham Caught Napping

Advised that as part of the Crossrail project (current budget £15 billion) each of five central London tube stations through which it passes had been allocated, for the purpose of decoration by their artists, to the five principal dealers associated with State Art, you might think a major public contract couldn’t possibly get away with such lazy commercial partiality. In fact, this is precisely what has happened. That such a deal could have been allowed to proceed without the merest peep of suspicion or opposition from any commentators indicates just how far it is now taken for granted that private, mercenary interests in art dovetail perfectly with those of supposedly ‘independent’ opinions and wider public policy. State Art has sold its soul. It has been bought.

Each gallery will select its own artists for commissions worth up to a million quid apiece, which are then given the nod by a panel. This devolution of responsibility saves overseers the trouble of actually thinking about it for themselves.

Recently trumpeted is the tarting up of Tottenham Court Road underground by two Turner Prize winners: Douglas Gordon, who makes tedious films of no recognisable artistic or cinematic merit; and Richard Wright, who does wall patterns of an appropriately ‘challenging’ persuasion. Needless to say, even before the artists have lifted a phone, their efforts have been declared ‘masterpieces’.

The previous artist to ornament TCR tube was Eduardo Paolozzi in 1984. He covered tunnels with mosaics in that colourful wiring-diagram-cum-snakes-and-ladders idiom he was partial to for so long. According to The Twentieth Century Society, who are eager to preserve them, some of these are now under threat, although Transport for London has said “we’ll do our best to protect as much as we can” – which makes it sound as if the demolition ball is already swinging ominously nearby. Not that Paolozzi’s murals are that significant – let’s face it, they’re hardly the Stanza della Segnatura.

The Crossrail art