Art In The Stockholm Metro: The World’s Longest Art Exhibition

Stadion Station, Stockholm

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Stockholm’s 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 the subway stations are full of original artworks, making the Metro a work of art in itself. I joined one of Stockholm Transport’s free walks to find out more about art in the Stockholm Metro.

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.

Tiles of T-Centralen Station, Stockholm
The tiled walls of T-Centralen are a characteristic feature of the older stations

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.

Artwork in T-Centralen Station, Stockholm
An artwork at T-Centralen depicts some of the people who built the first station

Designing The Stations

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.

Artwork in Universitetet Station, Stockholm
Mural of African animals at Universitetet Station

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.

Kungsträdgården Station, Stockholm
Ancient artefacts are part of the display at Kungsträdgården 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…


6 thoughts on “Art In The Stockholm Metro: The World’s Longest Art Exhibition”

  1. Beautiful art – almost a pity that it’s only to be seen underground. I love that the artwork at T-Centralen depicts some of the people who built the first station. It must be so hard to work in tunnels (I’m sitting outside with a beautiful view of the french countryside).

  2. Juergen | dare2go

    By no means do I want to diminish Stockholm’s claim of “the world’s longest art exhibition”, but art in Metro stations seems to be a global trend. It gives the utilitarian spaces an extra dimension and makes the sometimes long wait times more interesting. I’m sure it also reduces graffiti and other damage. We found last year some stunning examples of art in subway stations in Santiago de Chile.

  3. What a terrific way to share art with the masses on public transportation. I’m guessing that many of these works have inspired more than a few people. Would love to check it out some day.

  4. It’s a brilliant idea to have art in the metro stations — so many more people can view and enjoy them, as well as just adds a vibrant dynamic to the transit system.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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