London exhibition: Poster Art 150

A new exhibition showing the art of the Underground is well worth a visit, writes JOSH REICH.


Poster Art 150

FOR most of us, the daily grind of the tube is a chance to flick through a free newspaper or try not to get caught eavesdropping on the conversation next to us.

Getting from A to B in the shortest time possible generally precludes taking in one’s surroundings, a shame given some of the stunning architecture and design found on the platforms and within London’s Underground stations.

A new exhibition celebrating the Tube’s 150th birthday at the London Transport Museum displays 150 of the best Underground poster designs, from a collection of over 3000, allowing the chance to study in detail what may previously have been rushed past as part of the commute.

While temporary in nature, posters have long been used on the Underground to promote and inform passengers, and the exhibition presents a fascinating look at the development of the iconic system, and the city that it serves.

It also provides an insight of various art movements through the years, as tube authorities commissioned various artists to design posters which feature an array of fonts, layouts and iconography.

From encouraging women shoppers to use the tube out of peak hours and families to explore the wilds of outer London (including such exotic and nature-filled locations as Golders Green), to promoting the use of the tube to get to sporting, cultural and entertainment events, each design is a piece of style and design in its own right.

It also echoes back to an age far removed from today, when public transport was seen as luxurious and in some eyes, something to be viewed with apprehension.

New Zealand gets a brief mention, in Bawden and Derrick’s 1924 poster highlighting the British Exhibition, but the majority of the posters celebrate the system and inform its passengers of the day-to-day operation of the most vital of infrastructure.

In theory that may not be the most interest basis for an exhibition, but in practice makes it well worth a visit for anyone interested in design or learning how London came to be what it is today.

*Poster Art 150 – London Undergrounds Greatest Designs runs until October at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. It costs £15, a fee which includes entry into the museum for a year.