One of my surprise finds in Stockholm was the subway. I knew there was a subway and I knew it was supposed to be quite simple to use. What I didn’t know was that the subway system is also a massive art gallery.
Out of 100 stations, ninety are highly decorated with a range of sculptures, mosaics, paintings and engravings created by over 150 artists. As the subway stretches over 110km, it claims to be the world’s longest art gallery.
I shouldn’t have been surprised as it’s no secret.
This Stockholm website even has a page dedicated to it and advises the best stations to visit. I really don’t know how I missed finding out about it, but I guess it had something to do with me focussing all my research on the Kungsleden and not thinking too much about what I’d do after I’d finished walking.
The good thing about not knowing anything about it in advance was that I got to be surprised when I found myself in my first decorated station. I wandered round taking photos before getting on the train and finding another decorated station when I alighted.
Art in the stations began in the 1950s as a way of making culture accessible to all. Throughout the intervening decades more art has been added with the art from each decade encapsulating the hopes and fears of the time.
The 1950s and ’60s were a time of new prosperity after the Second World War, but were also the era of the Cold War. Both are reflected in the art.
As time progresses the art reflects the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, the individualism of the 1980s and the environmental concerns of more recent times.
I didn’t get to visit many stations, but next time I’m in Stockhom I’m going to work out a route so I get to see as many as possible.
Update: The Guardian has featured the art in the Tunnelbana and has a good write-up.