Art on the Metro hoardings

Engineering works for the major extension of the Metro in Copenhagen has meant that many streets and squares have been blocked or screened off with hoarding that are said to be in total 6 kilometres long and are, in places, 4 metres high. This has become almost a permanent part of the city streetscape and the work is not scheduled to be completed until 2018.

Metroselskabet, the company behind the project, came up with a scheme for artists and children in the city to use the hoardings as a canvas not only for street art but for communication and as a backdrop to installations.

A section at Kongen's Nytorv has a series of hinged flaps with black on one side and sharp strong colours on the other. A ladder is provided and kids seem to have great fun flipping over various combinations to form letters (most often their name) or patterns. There is usually a dotting parent there with camera ready to record the result.




Hoardings at Marmorkirken - the Marble Church

Marmorkirken, Frederiks Church or the Marble Church in Copenhagen, has been surrounded and almost cut off by extensive engineering works for a new stations. The hoardings here are by ULK - Ungeslaboratorer for Kunst or Young People’s Art Lab. The group is the inspiration of the National Gallery in Copenhagen - Statens Museum for Kunst - whose aim is to engage and involve young people to make art feel relevant. The works on the hoardings were produced with the 38 Kunstpiloterne or Art Pilots who guide the group and was also in conjunction with a Google project to digitise and make available online high-resolution images of works from the national collection.

The entrance portico of the church had to be kept free for access for worshipers and tourists but engineering works press hard against each side with just a narrow footpath left open to give access to the apartment buildings on either side of the church. The hoardings are actually not obvious for visitors to the church and, as the back of the square towards Store Kongensgade has been blocked off, there is no through access so the art on the hoardings may not get the attention that they deserve.

The images are taken from paintings in the gallery collection and are set in a stone arcade that is from a painting of 1815 by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckerserg called “A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum” but, as the title indicates, this view of Rome included only three arches and here they have been replicated in a bizarrely surreal but oddly logical way to run round both sides of the church and in some sections the arches have been built back in layers to create catacomb-like spaces.

These arches frame a whole series of images … some reproduced from the paintings apparently unedited but many cut and pasted into new relationships and the more you look the more you spot the improvements. On at least two idyllic rural scenes there are rubber ducks swimming; a historic view of Copenhagen has had the smoking chimney stacks of the modern power station added and includes hazardous industrial waste; Frederik V in his ceremonial robes has just taken off his snow board and is actually carrying a bar of chocolate and wearing ski goggles which seems curiously reasonable given that he has been repositioned against a winter snow scene. The Wounded Philoctetes painted by Nocolai Abildgaard has what I think is called a sleeve … a tattoo across his shoulder … and A Running Boy by Marius Holst von Schmidten, painted in 1802, is on a skate board, wearing trainers and with pretty flash headphones.

This is a mashup and one encouraged by the National Gallery … in fact I have downloaded the high definition images of the original paintings from the collection and they encourage “free use” in the widest sense.

One of my favourite paintings in the gallery is the Ryberg family group painted on their country estate by Jens Juel. In the version on the hoardings the son Johan Christian Ryberg looks much like the original until you see he is carrying sunglasses and has blue dyed hair but it is their dog that you see first … the original is a pretty odd mutt anyway but here he has been given a pink rinse. Is nothing sacred?


Walking the Metro Route

As the hoardings have been realigned as work progressed, some art works have been moved around the city and new works have been added. For many of the artists, this was the first opportunity they have had to work at this scale.

Over the last few years two prizes of 10,000 kroner have been awarded each year for the best designs, one by popular vote and one awarded by a team of judges.

The first photographs are of the works at Gammel Strand on the south side of the circuit of new stations because they illustrate well the range of designs and concepts accepted for the scheme. The hoardings there include a major piece by the designer Henrik Viskov called Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle and a dramatic monochrome design by the young artist Mads Thomsen. There are also a series of gigantic photographs of major finds from the archaeological excavations by a team from Københavns Museum … before the city expanded out onto reclaimed land, Gammel Strand was the line of the wharf of the medieval city.


To take the other photographs I walked in a long arc around the streets of the north and west parts of Copenhagen following the line of the new metro stations from Trianglen to Vibenshus Rundel through Skjolds Plads with its hoardings covered with photographs of beech forests to the huge area fenced off in Nørrebroparken and then to Nuks Plads, Aksel Møllers Have and ending at Fredericksberg to join up with the existing metro line to get a train home.

The photographs here are published in sequence as I walked from Øster Søgade to Frederiksberg. Not all the works are included but the selection here shows the huge range of ideas and styles and subjects.



As the hoardings have been realigned, as work progressed, some art works have been moved around the city and new works have been added. For many of the artists, this was the first opportunity they have had to work at this scale.


Sønder Boulevard 

This final selection of photographs is of the hoardings around the excavations for the first metro stop that will be immediately west of the central railway station.