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European Expert Meeting on Percent for Art Schemes

Session Three: Art and Infrastructure

United Kingdom: Tamsin Dillon, Platform for Art (PFA)

'The Challenges and Benefits of presenting Contemporary Art on the London Underground'

Tamsin Dillon works for the PFA which takes care of the programming of the visual arts in the London Underground.

The PFA has been providing temporary works of art at as many locations as possible (at stations, in trains, on boarding) in the London Underground since 2000. There is a fairly direct link with architecture and design in this case. Dillon mentioned a number of key figures in the history of the underground: Frank Pick, head of design in the twenties and thirties, who united design and marketing in an integrated vision; architects Leslie Green and Charles Holden (Holden designed most stations on the Piccadilly line when it was expanded in the thirties and the headquarters of the London Underground, for which he called in visual artists Henry Moore and Jacob Epstein) and Henry Beck, who developed the first underground map and, in doing so, created a model for the whole world.

The PFA operates within this rich history and this presents an enormous challenge but there are plenty of other challenges in working with art in public space, too. In addition to various substantive issues, working with safety aspects is one of the biggest challenges.

The relationship between 'public' and 'publicity space' is also an interesting aspect. Sometimes advertising space is not sold and the PFA can use it to carry out a project. The ultimate objective is primarily to convince companies of the sense of using space for art, including as permanent features. Commercial and public establishments recognise that the space available in the London Underground has enormous possibilities and an enormous public reach (3 million people per day). The PFA began with projects at Gloucester Road Station, in response to artists who approached the London Underground to ask whether they could use the space. It was a big challenge to display the potential of the programme well from the start. High calibre artists were therefore used right from the very beginning.

Initially there was little policy. The London Underground management did not consider the projects to be an essential part of the organisation. The PFA was placed under customary environment - not the most innovative department. The PFA is now part of the marketing and communication department, a far better place for it, since it uses the same strategies. For the time being, the PFA is working with temporary projects, but it hopes to implement permanent commissions in the future, too. Incidentally, the PFA works with an advisory committee.

In the first project the PFA sought cooperation with galleries in and around London. It asked galleries to send an illustration of work by one of their artists and the gallery address for a poster. This poster was stuck up around Gloucester Road Station. In this way a fast, effective project was created, and contacts were made with the galleries with which the PFA was to work in later projects.

Free underground maps also form new space for art. At the outset it seemed an ideal space, but it was not simple to develop good projects for it. In cooperation with the Frieze Art Fair, Emma Kay was awarded the commission. She used all the colours of the underground map in an illustration of a target. Later tube maps were created by Gary Hume and David Shrigley.

The PFA works with several important English artists from the last ten years, but the programme is also international. (Dillon showed works by various artists including Cindy Sherman, Mark Titchner and David Bachelor.) It continues to be a battle to obtain space for art in the development of the London Underground. Gloucester Road Station has now grown into a sort of showpiece, as has Picadilly Circus. The PFA also hopes to develop a programme for Canary Wharf.


When asked, Dillon confirmed that there is a small budget available for the integration of the visual arts in stations which are yet to be built and that sometimes a temporary work stays in the possession of the PFA so that a collection is formed. The budget for her programme amounts to 300,000 pounds annually.

The Netherlands: Nelly Voorhuis, Atelier HSL

'A possible Future of Art on the HST Network'

Nelly Voorhuis and Anne Reenders jointly form Atelier HSL, the agency which initiates and organises art projects for the High Speed Line South (HSL South).

The construction of the HSL South is an extensive infrastructural project with a big influence on the Dutch landscape. The HSL South project is being financed by Public-Private Cooperation (PPS). Despite years of preparation for the line, the visual arts were only deployed late in the process. There is sometimes confusion regarding the percentage scheme in this respect, but the budget available for this project is not based on a percentage of the total building budget. The HSL South, together with SKOR, set up the Atelier HSL to initiate and organise the application of art within the project. The studio is financed by private parties. Atelier HSL awards commissions, makes exhibitions, carries out research and puts out publications. Dees Linders is involved as advisor on behalf of SKOR and additional administrators and advisors are appointed for various projects. Atelier HSL awards commissions via public tenders, draft commissions and sometimes direct invitations. The first commissions went to photographers and gradually this broadened to include diverse disciplines (the visual arts, literature, architecture, design and fashion). The studio works exclusively with European artists because of the European range and character of the line. [1] The HSL project is unusual, for several reasons. Each project which is allied to the HSL South is politically sensitive because of the social discussion about the line. It is a large-scale project with many partners with whom consultations must take place and the partners are not all familiar with art. In addition, the project has developed into a sort of “roller coaster experience” as a result of the legal and political developments of the last three years.

Atelier HSL has been awarding commissions to photographers to record the cultural and social consequences of the high-speed train line annually since 2001. With this series of commissions the project is documenting the construction of the line and its influence on the landscape and the people living in the vicinity (including Elger Esser, Bertien van Manen, Jem Southam, Hannah Starkey and Valerie Jouve). A collection of works is being produced in this way. In so far as there is no permanent accommodation along the high speed line, these works are being housed in the collection at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam .

Atelier HSL awards design commissions for the interiors of trains and for the personnel in trains in cooperation with the Dutch Railways (NS). For the development of a new type of meeting point, Atelier HSL awarded a draft commission to five artists: Xavier Veilhan, Matali Crasset, John Körmeling, Liam Gillick and the duo Sylvie Zijlmans/Hewald Jongenelis. Additional finances were sought and found for this project from the partners NS, ProRail and the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM). The budget is intended for producing and maintaining meeting points at seven different stations. Public space often became political space during the course of this project. This entailed an important shift in the perception and communication of the project. Extensive infrastructural projects of this kind are unlikely to be repeated within the near future in the Netherlands . This is why Voorhuis would like to see it get some sort of restart or response in other European countries. She called on participants to help Atelier HSL make contact with the railways of the countries concerned.


Madeleine van Lennep asked whether the scope of the Atelier HSL project is not too broad. Nelly Voorhuis said that it had been even more widely based at the beginning. It was supposed to have been an art and culture project, not just for the visual arts. She told the meeting that she had been repeatedly called to account for the fact that the programme does not comprise any opera, music or amateur art, for example. The choice has now been made to include photography and video, landscape projects, the visual arts and design. Furthermore, the whole line will be utilised, that is, the train, the stations and areas along the line.

This is what Van Lennep meant by scope, not so much the media. Doesn't this make the project very complicated? Voorhuis replied that it is a complex programme because the whole section of the HSL South from Amsterdam to the Belgian border has to be followed; restricting the project to, for example, only the stations was not possible. Moreover, contrary to the civil building world, the world of infrastructure is not used to incorporating art in its work. These activities demand a great deal of diplomacy and persuasiveness. Really good contact with the NS was only achieved two years ago.

The Atelier HSL is a part of the PPS construction; 10% of the budget comes, via the SKOR, from the arts budget and the rest comes from corporate sponsors. Incidentally, these sponsors do not have any influence on the choice of artists. Nelly has, however, explicitly opted to work only with European artists because the HSL is a part of the European High Speed Train network.

Adrian George added that when working with a PPS construction it can be advantageous to divide the budget up and to place specific parts under the various partners and sponsors.

Voorhuis endorsed this point (for example, Philips is currently party to a project together with the NS), but said that it is always difficult to find your way in such big structures.

Vera Moosmayer asked whether there are any other similar large infrastructural projects in the Netherlands . Voorhuis mentioned the development of the Zuiderzeelijn (the line from Amsterdam to Groningen ). Provisions for the visual arts have not been made within this plan but there are plans for landscape projects. Moosmayer wanted to know whether this was an indication that the Atelier HSL project has not been successful in this sense, but this is not the case. There are simply no more big lines in the Netherlands . Tom van Gestel added that the line is, moreover, not yet operational.

Voorhuis again emphasised the fact that it would be good to translate this project to an international project. Moosmayer was very interested. She said that in Germany it is very difficult to get parties interested in looking further than the customary sculpture on a bridge.

 [1] See also the website: www.atelierhsl.nl