Langlands & Bell Unveil New Underground Art Work Inspired By Frank Pick

A new contemporary artwork titled ‘BEAUTY < IMMORTALITY’ by Turner Prize nominated and BAFTA award-winning artists Langlands & Bell has been unveiled at one of London’s busiest Tube stations. Commissioned by London Transport Museum and London Underground’s Art on the Underground programme in partnership with London-born gift and interiors retailer, the new art installation was inspired by Frank Pick, London Transport’s first Chief Executive. Frank Pick was the mastermind behind London’s iconic Underground designs, such as the famous bar and circle logo known as the ‘roundel’ and many of London Underground’s Art Deco stations. The artwork was launched by Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner and highlights the continuing importance of thoughtful design in helping customers use London’s public transport services. 

Langlands & Bell’s striking wall installation, made of bronze, vitreous enamel, LEDs and marble, is a permanent addition to the station’s unique architecture. The artwork is 9.5m long and 2m high and features a 1.37m diameter roundel and a 1.98m high text of solid bronze letters in New Johnston typeface. The original Johnston typeface was commissioned by Frank Pick in 1915 and is still used, in an adapted form, across London’s transport network today.

The artists were inspired by Frank Pick’s own handwritten notes, which are part of London Transport Museum’s unique collection. The text relates to Frank Pick’s philosophy about beauty, utility, goodness and truth, and underlines Langlands & Bell’s shared conviction that the quality of our surroundings contributes decisively to our quality of life. The result, in BEAUTY < IMMORTALITY, is an exquisitely simple concept that enhances Piccadilly Circus station, which is one of the stations Frank Pick commissioned leading British modernist architect, Charles Holden, to design.

As Managing Director of London Underground in the 1920s and the first Chief Executive of London Transport, Frank Pick (1878-1941) had more influence on the look of twentieth-century London than any other individual. Renowned art historian Nikolaus Pevsner described Frank Pick as “the greatest patron of the arts whom this century has so far produced in England, and indeed the ideal patron of our age.”

Through Pick’s vision and determination, the Underground played a role in the birth of commercial art and advertising, as well as the emergence of graphic design, wayfinding systems, corporate identities and integrated brand design.

Artist duo, Langlands & Bell, have long explored systems of mass communication, networks and travel in their diverse projects. This new work demonstrates the ability artists have to enrich the daily environments of millions of people, a notion inspired by the vision of Frank Pick.

Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Frank Pick changed the face of public transport in London. He was passionate about good, thoughtful design and believed it was central to a well-run, modern business or service – a vision Transport for London still shares today. Langlands & Bell’s artwork builds on Pick’s legacy of design work and I’m sure the many thousands of customers who use Piccadilly Circus station each day will enjoy it.”

Sam Mullins, Director of London Transport Museum said: “People around the world are familiar with the Tube logo, London Underground’s distinctive station architecture and the Edward Johnston typeface and we are delighted to be marking the contribution of the man behind commissioning these ground breaking designs. This installation celebrates Frank Pick’s enduring legacy and his remarkable and individual pursuit of civic excellence for London.”

Nikki Bell, one-half of the duo Langlands & Bell said: “It’s wonderful to see our artwork BEAUTY < IMMORTALITY here at Piccadilly Circus station. So many people recognise the branding of London’s transport system but we wanted the man behind the design to take centre stage.”

Photo: Thierry Bal, © TFL

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