SAM 0784x 1 - New posters for TfL's 2020 tube map

Tradition has decreed posters are created to complement the latest iteration of London’s tube map and the previous, ‘Morden,’ was published in 2019 with both map/poster widely used across the network. This year its been quite different. Due to the 2020 pandemic May’s tube map was distributed in July and even at the time of writing its still not found in many tube stations! There’s still a lot of 2019 maps about – Oxford Circus station for example is a 2020 tube map dessert! This year is still quite slow (we still have no cure for COVID and there’s little confidence in current progress) thus its only recent the tube’s advertising’s sort of got to grasps with the situation and begun updating on a regular basis once again. In that respect the posters to complement the 2020 tube map too have only just begun making their presence on the network.

TfL in fact publicised the new look poster at the end of September 2020 but its only this first week of October 2020 there’s been more publicity covering Elisabeth Wild’s work – especially on the Art on the Underground website. The past week or so has seen these posters showing Elisabeth Wild’s ‘Fantasias’ starting to appear at various tube stations in Central London. But it seems there’s still a lot that isn’t happening this year if one looks at TfL’s previously announced art proposals for 2020.

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A pop up appears on TfL’s Art on the Underground page saying most of its projects are temporarily paused.

In fact it appears there were meant to be two different tube map commissions this year. The first by Elisabeth Wild, and the second by Phyllida Barlow. The only evidence of the latter is a brief mention on TfL’s press release from last year – much like the Elisabeth Wild one, the Phyllida Barlow one too is a special commission and TfL’s press release mentions this would appear in the autumn of 2020. I think its highly unlikely we will see this second edition of the 2020 tube map until the end of the year if current indications are anything to go by. It could even be next year (2021) considering the current rate of things!

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Announcement re the autumn 2020 edition tube map – we’re more likely to see this in December 2020 – or even sometime in early 2021…

The work by Elisabeth Wild was commissioned and put well into production before the pandemic began in March 2020 (not forgetting this too was one of the artist’s final works as she passed away earlier this year.)

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The tube map with Elisabeth Wild’s commission on the cover.

Instead of being launched in May 2020 it was June before it made any appearance at tube stations and similarly we are seeing the same thing happen with the poster that compliments the map. The first announcements of it were made in mid-September on Facebook and Twitter however further announcements were made on 6th October with the main TfL arts page adding Elisabeth Wild to its current projects. (Google says the latest page was added on the 6th October whilst the Internet Archive still shows the previous page from September.)

elisabethwild - New posters for TfL's 2020 tube map

TfL’s November 2019 announcement Elisabeth Wild would create a new tube map cover for 2020.

As mentioned before this year is slow on almost every conceivable front and art on the tube is no exception. Its only this last few days that posters featuring Elisabeth Wild’s commission for TfL have been showing up at selected tube stations. There’s certainly one located at most of the Zone One Jubilee Line stations. The following photograph shows how these posters look and there’s also a mention these too are in memory of Elisabeth Wild.

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The Fantasias/Elisabeth Wild poster at Southwark tube station – which was the best I could get without any reflections on the perspex covering.

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Fantasias on Southwark’s platform.

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Fantasias on the Jubilee Line at Waterloo.

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Green Park Jubilee Line.

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Bond Street Jubilee Line.

One thing I noticed about Elisabeth Wild’s Fantasias work is its in fact a homage to TfL and the London Underground! The main colours (red, blue, whites) are the same as those colours seen on the standard deep level tube seats and the tube roundels! What Elisabeth Wild has done is take the various elements from the tube roundel and the seats then reassembled in a cubist/vorticism/de-constructionist manner – thus her work is in fact London Underground’s corporate identities rearranged in a completely different format!

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The small print on the back of the tube map denoting this is Elisabeth Wild’s work.

One thing that intrigues me is how much people will associate the current tube map with the actual art work itself? Apart from the brief description at the back of the tube map (in small print) there’s little to indicate the map and the poster have a common lineage. There’s however one tube station that has attempted to answer that question… they’ve in fact made the poster into a background image on their leaflet rack – and its really apparent both the tube map and the poster have strong affinity.

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The map rack at Edgware Road (Circle/District/Hammersmith) depicts Elisabeth Wild’s artwork as a background. At the same time it makes the tube maps stand out better too!

I wonder if any other tube stations have, or will, follow this example seen at Edgware Road as its quite an effective way of highlighting the artwork in question. If I find any other examples like this I’ll put them here!

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