Stockholm’s subway system has been called the world’s longest art exhibit: it covers over 90 stations—100 plus kilometers—and displays both permanent installations and rotating shows. For the price of one metro ticket, travelers can get a look into the culture of the Swedish capital, the founding of the subway in the 1940s, and the inclusion of contemporary and modern experimental artists into the subway experience. According to the official website, ‘The art makes the stations perceived as more beautiful, safer, and it helps to make the trip into something more than just a transport between two places.”
Solna station, Stockholm – Art on a massive immersive scale redefines the riders experience
Two artists, Vera Nilsson and Siri Derkert, were behind the campaign in the 1950s to change the metro into a stunning immersive gallery. The project was supported by a broad political coalition that shared the idea that the whole city benefited from this cultural resource.
Kungstradgarden station, Stockholm – Artists, architects, and engineers collaborated to ensure that each station provided full-scale experiences to riders.
Many of the stations were designed as full-scale installations—a collaborative partnership between artists, architects, and engineers. This collaboration resulted in installations in stations such as Rådhuset, Kungsträdgården, Solna centrum, Näckrosen, Alby, Stadion, Rinkeby, Tensta, and T-Centralen. Each station is unique with a specific theme and character. A rider’s journey on the line connects them to the culture above ground and differentiates every stop along the line. Massive bright red walls? You know you are at the Solna Centrum station, and the Kungsträdgården station evokes an archaeological dig featuring pieces from the Stockholm Makalös palace.
Kungstradgarden station, Stockholm – An exposed rock face, green-sprayed concrete, cement mosaic floor, and cast sculptures from the Makalös Palace set in a petrified waterfall.
More than 150 artists contributed to art throughout the subway system using a range of techniques including painting, sculpture, mosaic, engraving, enamel, and bas-relief. To showcase these more fragile pieces, such as graphics, drawings, paintings, and textiles that could become damaged in the harsh conditions of the underground Metro, temporary shows are installed in six stations which are rotated four times a year.
Odenplan Station, Stockholm – More than 150 local artists have created work for the subway enhancing almost every station in the transit system. Photo by Flickr User Nenyaki.
Stockholms Lokaltrafik (Greater Stockholm’s traffic agency locally known as “SL”) runs free weekly guided art tours of its underground subway art led by certified guides all for the price of a metro ticket!