The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Paolozzi mosaics in the rotunda after restoration
Oxford Street panel during works

C20 welcomes return of final Paolozzi mosaics

The Twentieth Century Society has welcomed the return of the celebrated mosaics by artist Eduardo Paolozzi to the newly modernised Tottenham Court Road underground station.

One of the final and most complex aspects of the project was the relocation of the striking mosaic panel from the former Oxford Street entrance. Following intensive planning and consultation with conservation experts, the artwork was carefully removed from the wall in one piece and lowered down a lift shaft to begin its new life at platform level, which you can watch on YouTube.

Catherine Croft, Director of C20, said: “The end result of the refurbishment of the station is impressive, but it has not been a straightforward story. When the hoardings first began to come down on the Northern Line platforms in 2015 it was clear that Transport for London’s reassurances that they would safeguard the Edwardo Paolozzi mosaics had not been fulfilled. Large areas of the fantastic art work, loved by so many Londoners, had been replicated in modern equivalents of the original glass tiles which were much less subtly coloured and textured than the original. It was as if part of the Mona Lisa had been copied in crude acrylics.”

“At this point C20 Society called for work to stop and a new strategy to be developed. We are delighted that as a result of our intervention, and the popular support it generated, the large panel from the original Oxford Street entrance has been very carefully conserved by experts who removed and transported it to its great new location within the station in a single piece (this had to be done before the new lifts were installed, because it was so big). Sadly it was too late to adapt the design of the new ticket hall to incorporate the colourful mosaic arches which used to sit over the escalators. Fragments of these are now at Edinburgh College of Art to be reassembled and used for conservation training.”

“Whilst we would have liked to see the whole art work kept intact, we congratulate Transport for London on the repairs and cleaning that have made using the station a very special experience for busy shoppers and commuters, and we hope that some passers-by will want to go to the Whitechapel’s forthcoming Paolozzi exhibition to learn more about the artist.”

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) was one of Britain’s most prolific artists and sculptors of the twentieth century. Knighted in 1989, he was a Royal Academician and Her Majesty’s Sculptor-in-Ordinary for Scotland. Over 350 works including sculptures and art works are in the Tate gallery collection. The mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station were commissioned in 1980 by London Transport and completed in 1984.

Catherine added: “London Underground  has  developed an expertise in mosaic conservation which will enable it to do a great job on future station renovations and show other owners across the capital what  can be achieved.” C20 is currently campaigning for the listing of the Adam Kossowski murals on the former North Peckham Civic Centre in the Old Kent Road and this expertise could help save them, as it is planned to move them to a new location.  The question is ‘where should that be?’