The Stockholm Metro is full of busy people, scurrying around on their way to work, school or the shops. There is no time to stop and look around. Which is a pity, because Stockholm’s subway stations are full of original artworks, making the Metro a work of art in itself.
Exploring Art in the Stockholm Metro
The art in the Stockholm Metro is sometimes described as “the world’s longest art exhibition”. This is no mean claim: the subway system is 110 km long, and of its 100 stations more than 90 feature work from more than 150 different artists. I joined one of Stockholm Transport’s free art walks to find out more.
We were shown round by Tiiu, an enthusiastic Estonian who explained the history of art in the Metro. When the first station – T-Centralen – was opened in 1957, there was a competition for artists to decorate the station. Twelve works were selected, some of which are still on show today. As the network expanded attention was paid to the design of the stations themselves, with the early stations all featuring a distinctive tiled design.
Artworks were added to new stations as they were built. Over time this has meant that the Metro as a whole exhibits a variety of different styles of art and architecture, incorporating mosaics, sculptures and much more. And there is a a policy of adding new artworks to older stations. All of this this gives the illusion that the Metro is one massive art gallery!
New Lines and Grotto Stations
Leaving T-Centralen, our tour visited some of the stations on the Red Line. This was the second line of the Stockholm Metro, built in the 1960s. Two of its stations – Universitetet and Tekniska högskolan (Technical High School) – were crammed full of knowledge themed artworks. Their subjects ranged from Plato to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to the Declaration of Human Rights. We also stopped at Stadion, with its eye-catching rainbow-painted archway.
Then it was on to the Blue Line, with its so-called “grotto stations”. These made a feature of the granite from which the stations were blasted, creating a subterranean cave like atmosphere. We visited Kungsträdgården, one of the best known of the grotto stations. There is plenty to see just in this one station, with its grand statues and ceiling art. Most impressive to me was the area full of ancient artefacts salvaged when the city was redeveloped – it made the station seem more like a museum than a busy subway station.
I could have spent longer at Kungsträdgården, but this was the end of the tour. But it was really only the beginning. I still had more than 80 stations to explore…
Thanks to Tiiu and to SL, the Stockholm Transport company, for this tour of the Art of the Stockholm Metro. SL offer free tours in the summer months (you just need a Metro ticket) – see the website for details.