Mark Wallinger invites London tube users to lose themselves in 270 labyrinths

By Mark Sheerin | 28 August 2013

Labyrinths get a bad rap. But if it wasn’t for that legendary minotaur they might be better recognised as a source of fun and divertissement. There is after all only one way in, one path to follow, one way to reach the middle. You can see for yourself on London Underground at the moment.

Colour photo of art labyriinth on wall
Mark Wallinger, London Bridge 68 / 270©
Artist Mark Wallinger has seized on the iconic potential for such maps to complement the visual language of the world’s oldest metro system. Sure enough, for most Londoners it is a daily case of one way in, a tunnel to the centre, followed by retraced steps at the end of play.

Tyrannical bosses apart, there are no monsters in the picture. But perhaps there will be in your head, as you study one of the 270 unique mazes. There are individual designs planned for every station on the network. It is the most extensive commission yet for Art on the Underground, who celebrate 150 years of the network.

Each design is displayed in a prominent position in a 60cm squared enamel panel. It’s a brave move, given the potential for maps of this sort to confuse tourists. But fortunately Harry Beck’s map of the entire network is so iconic, risks have been considered minimal.

Installations are still underway, but the completed project will present art lovers with a challenge of endurance to see the whole lot. The current record for passing through every station on the network is 16.5 hours. That doesn’t allow for time contemplating Wallinger’s art. Best make a weekend of it.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.

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