Art Below uses billboard space in underground stations to display artworks in London and overseas. Brothers Simon and Ben Moore first experimented with this idea by displaying the works of their friends on billboard space in major stations in the London underground. Since then the group has nurtured an international community of artists and has displayed the works of over 3000 international artists. The mixture of emerging and established artists gives the traveling public insight to the contemporary art scene. Beside the idea of giving artists a platform in the public space, the commuters get the chance to see a multiplicity of artworks during their daily journeys. The principle to show art in a new context and the public appearance of contemporary art create a new urban environment. In the future the idea of Art Below is to develop a network for international artists to display their work in public space in cities of their choice.
Public art campaigns
In Art Below's public gallery in the London underground, selected artists are invited to display their work on billboard space, for a fee, at an underground station of their choice. There the artworks will be displayed for two weeks.
Often campaigns use theme-based challenges. These are organised by Art Below and their partners including The Other Art Fair,Saatchi New Sensations,The Hospital Club, Don't Panic Media and The Sovereign Art Foundation.
The support of new talent is an important aspect of the work of Art Below. Art Below implements projects in cooperation with universities including the City & Guilds of London Art School. During the "Art Lift" project the works of sixteen MA students were displayed in the lifts of Kennington underground, coinciding with the "Cleaver Square-based school's fine art show" and the Kennington Station near the event.
In January 2012, Art Below presented an exhibition 'Art of Angel' at Candid Arts Trust, alongside an installation of artwork on the London Underground at Angel tube station, with 30 artists including Julie Verhoeven, Philip Levine, Sarah Maple and Julie Umerle. This was timed to coincide with the London Art Fair, an annual event in the London arts calendar.
The Peace Project
In 2010, Art Below joined with Peace Strike to create a series of plinth art installations promoting peace in Parliament Square by the Palace of Westminster in London. The first installation, in February 2011, was by special effects artist Schoony, who created a 3D installation depicting child soldiers. Moore created an oil painting for the installation, which he curated. The Plinth of Peace was displayed in Los Angeles for two weeks as a part of BritWeek's 2012 Art Programme.
Stations of the Cross
Art Below and the Missing Tom Fund returned with 'Stations of the Cross' an exhibition of 14 artists' depicting the Passion of Christ. Opening on 6 March 2014 at London's St Marylebone Parish Church, the exhibition ran for 40 days to coincide with Lent.
The exhibition was open to the public whilst the works were also intended for prayer and meditation within the parish congregation. Confirmed artists included Jake and Dinos Chapman, Mat Collishaw, Polly Morgan, Johan Andersson, Alison Jackson, Antony Micallef, Alex Gene Morrison and Sebastian Horsley. To coincide with the exhibition, Art Below showcased selected works on billboard space throughout the London Underground at stations that have a symbolic link with the theme, including King's Cross, Marylebone, Marble Arch, St. Paul's, Angel, Temple and Tower Hill.
'Stations of the Cross' was the second exhibition to be curated by Art Below founder Ben Moore to raise proceeds for the Missing Tom Fund. With the support of his family and the Missing People Charity, Moore set up the Missing Tom Fund in 2013 to raise money for the search of his older brother Tom who has been missing for 10 years. The first exhibition highlighting the Missing Tom Fund was the hugely acclaimed 'Art Wars', which was held at the Saatchi Gallery in October 2013 and featured artists including Damien Hirst, David Bailey, Yinka Shonibare and Jake and Dinos Chapman.
Ben Moore said: "The proceeds from Art Wars have enabled us to reignite the search for my brother and also to draw attention to excellent work of the Missing People Charity. Tom was very interested in religion and, as such, Stations of the Cross seems a natural fit for us. We hope that the project will offer further help in continuing our search for Tom."
In 2013 Moore teamed up with the charity Missing People to produce Art Wars, an exhibition featuring designs based on the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets and body armour from the Star Wars films. Twenty artists created replicas and re-imaginings of the helmets, including Damien Hirst, D*Face, Mr. Brainwash, David Bailey, Joana Vasconcelos, Yinka Shonibare, and Jake and Dinos Chapman. Moore contributed to the exhibit with a melted down and crushed acrylic-capped Stormtrooper helmet. Andrew Ainsworth, who designed the original Stormtrooper suit, donated a helmet cast from the original 1976 moulds for each artist to use.
The exhibit premiered at the Saatchi Gallery in London on 9 October 2013, and posters of the helmets were then displayed by Art Below on billboards at the Regent's Park tube station. A mobile phone app for Art Wars allowed users to view the designs in 3D. Following the exhibit, the helmets were auctioned off in support of the Missing Tom fund, an organisation raising money in search of Moore's brother Tom, who suffers from mental health issues and hasn't made contact with family or friends since 2003.
On 17 April 2013, to coincide with Margaret Thatcher's funeral, Art Below opened 'Thatcheristic' at London's Gallery Different. 10 UK-based artists including Peter Kennard, Harry Pye, Nasser Azam and Sarah Maple were invited to show portrait-based artworks concerning Thatcher. Selected works from the exhibition were due to feature at Westminster tube station from 22 April, "including a large pixellated close-up of Margaret Thatcher’s tearful eye when leaving Downing Street for the last time by Jonny Briggs, winner of the Saatchi New Sensations competition".
"All the artists in the show have one thing in common, we all grew up as Thatcher's children", said Ben Moore.
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In Berlin Art Below developed the "Pillar of Art" project. By using pillars in several quarters of Berlin, Art Below gets overground and fills a further urban space with art. In 2010 "Pillar of Art" was a collaboration of Art Below and Art Barter. The event started on the 24th with a launch party on the Alexanderplatz and was followed by an exhibition organised by Art Below in which ten pillars around the city displayed the works of a number of Berlin-based artists.
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In September 2008 Art Below organised the first exhibition in the Tokyo underground. The works of sixteen artists were displayed on the Ginza platform of Shibuya Station. Because of its success and international recognition, Art Below initiated a second exhibition in Tokyo in 2009; at the Shibuya Station seven artists were featured, coinciding with the October "Tokyo Design Fair". The Sasakawa Foundation supported this exhibition to enhance the appreciation and understanding of Britain and Japan's culture, society and achievements together.
Between 30 January – 29 February 2012. Art Below carried out their first "pop up" billboard show in America in New Orleans, bringing local and international artists together during the most festive time of the year, Mardi Gras. Billboard space used normally for advertising featured a mix of urban and contemporary art. A curated selection of 20 billboards flanking the major Mardi Gras parade routes including the famed "Zulu" parade featured works by artists including Inkie, Ben Moore and Philip Levine, as well as New Orleans based artists Sarah Ashley Longshore. Running alongside the billboard show was an exhibition of the artists original works at Gallery Orange based in the French quarter. Scenes and moments from this exhibition was screened on the Art Below web site in April 2012.
Art in Motion
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For two weeks from 11 April 2011, Art Below took over the digital projection screens (2 m high x 3.7m wide) on the Westbound Central line platform at Liverpool Street, to bring you "Art in Motion". Curated by Ben Moore "Art in Motion" is a series of short films showing different artists actually in the process of creating their own work. The artists included Adeline de Monseignat, Max Hattler (tank.tv) and Philip Levine. On 19 April there was a celebratory launch event of "Art in Motion" at the Future Gallery in Covent Garden, supported by Courvoisier. The Art in Motion showreel was projected on screen, and artist Johan Andresson's paintings from his 'stolen faces' where on display.
Many artists have had works shown by Art Below. In addition to the various art disciplines shown in the prior years, many now-famous artists were popularized by displaying their work with Art Below. Notable artists of the fashion scene have been shown, including Cleo Barber, creator of British footwear brand Cleo B, Philip Levine, who uses his head as an exhibition space; his works were displayed many times in the London underground; and Ada Zanditon, an ethnic fashion designer who established and set up her own company in 2008, was displayed in March 2008.
Radical names of the progressive arts also went underground with Art Below. Sean Power, an active member of the Royal Marines Reserve, studied at the London College of Communication and became an official Legion photographer. Nick Ruston is a British artist and sculptor featured. Scarlett Raven, who was recognized as an artistic talent at the beginning of her BA in Fine Arts, exhibited in October 2009. She had a solo exhibition on London's Cork Street and is one of the youngest artists to have an exhibition on this famous street. Sarah Maple displayed her work 'Fighting Fire with Fire' at the underground. She studied Fine Art at Kingston University and won the "4 New Sensations" competition. International abstract artist Julie Umerle displayed her work 'Eclipse' on the London Underground in January 2012 at Angel Islington. The work 'Forgive us our Trespassing' by Banksy was displayed in March 2010 at London Bridge. In 2010 Art Below displayed a work of Charles Bronson, a British prisoner, who was jailed in 1974.
In April 2011, Art Below carried out a dual public art display in the Tokyo Metro and London Underground commuters saw a scene of Antarctica and one artist - a dot in the huge icy canvas - the work of Nasser Azam. Azam relishes giving us extreme art in challenging circumstances. Previously artist in residence at London's County Hall Gallery, and creator of the 'Anatomica' exhibition; in July 2008 Azam completed two triptychs in zero gravity, done as a homage to the artist Francis Bacon. In February 2010, accompanied by a camera crew, Azam to draw inspiration from the frozen tundra of Antarctica where he endured extreme weather conditions to produce a series of large abstract oil paintings. For 2 weeks, Azam's work was on the billboard space of 2 platforms 6000 miles apart in Tokyo's Shibuya station and London's Liverpool Street Station with images of his Antarctica series. Azam commented "I wanted to expose the desolate, silent, spacious and empty environment of the South Pole in probably the most crowded, hectic, busy and noisy space in the world" Accompanying the poster display on the Liverpool Street station platform, Art Below took over a 3 meter wide digital projection screen, piloting an international video link enabling London's travellers to view the Tokyo platform - the poster display and all the public activity going on around it. Playing on the same video loop was a 2 minute film made in collaboration with Bafta nominated British Film Director Ed Blum. Here we see Nasser Azam creating canvasses at temperatures of minus 40 degrees and buffeted by gales, he paints in different settings: on glaciers, by frozen lakes, in ice caves. Nasser says "I am confronted by a magnitude of blinding light, by wind and intense cold." Some of his canvases where lost in an Antarctic gale. But most are here for us to see. Such ordeals need preparation. Azam prepared for this venture in the huge freezer of Billingsgate Butchers Market, devising brushes that would work in such temperatures, and acrylic paint that did not clog. Art Below made the policy decision to persist with this display in Tokyo despite Tsunami, Earthquake and Nuclear fallout. Ben Moore said 'We did this in the sure conviction that Tokyo's commuters will appreciate such a diversion from their adversities. Now is not the time to withdraw our custom.' This was the third exhibition they have staged in the Tokyo metro.
Johan Andersson Amy Winehouse Tribute
After the death of Amy Winehouse in July 2011 Art Below unveiled an image of the singer by Johan Andersson on the Northern line at Camden Town just two weeks after Winehouse died. The image has been re exhibited firstly in July 2012 in Art Below’s build up show to the Olympics. One year on from the death of Amy Winehouse. Art Below reinstalled the image at Camden Town tube station and was located on Northern line Platform 1.
In 2012 to go alongside the AKA Peace Exhibition at the ICA Art Below showcased selected works from the AKA Peace series on the London Underground. "AKA Peace" originally conceived by photographer Bran Symondson and curated by artist Jake Chapman, is an exhibition of new works made specially for The Peace One Day Project 2012, bringing together a group of Contemporary Artists, all of whom agreed to transform a decommissioned AK-47 assault rifle, refashioning into artworks. Artists work that was featured included: Laila Shawa, Langlands & Bell, Mat Collishaw, and Antony Micallef.
Eine's work was featured at Art Below's The Peace Project. Enie's know[vague] for Alphabet Street where the shutters and murals that he painted in his colours and typography in can be seen in London's Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Broadway Market areas. His work at the show contained his graffiti typography. One of his pieces that simply spelled out the word love titled 'Circus Love' was displayed at Regent's Park this had previously being featured in Art Below's July 2012 show where it was placed on the wall of the Central line at Oxford Circus.
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November - The Royal British Legion: The work of Sean Power who 40 Commando Royal Marines[vague] between 2002 to 2007. After leaving the Royal Marines still staying in the reserve. Sean trained as photo-journalist. In October 2009, Sean spent three weeks back on the ground in Afghanistan, living with and photographing the men and women of Task Force Helmand during their routine patrols and their down time. These images where on display to support the Royal British Legion.
June - Art Barter Collaboration in Berlin: Art Below launched an art campaign in Berlin, in collaboration with Art Barter. It was a 2 week long exhibition on 10 public pillars.
September - Art Lift: 16 MA students at City & Guilds of London Art School have transformed the entire 2 lifts at Kennington tube into an art gallery displaying their end of year work in the advertising panels.
December - 40 years of Page 3: to commemorate 40 years of page in The Sun Newspaper a Charity Art Auction being held at the V&A on the evening of 13 December in support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. It was collaboration between different artist and Page 3 models.
April - Headism: In the buildup to his solo show 'Headism' Philip Levine displayed a selection of his 'head designs' in major stations throughout the London Underground for 2 weeks starting 11 April.
April - Antarctica: Nasser Azam's 'Antarctica' was shown on poster space and on digital projection screens in the London Underground and the Tokyo Metro simultaneously. Art Below also devised an international video link enabling London's travellers to view the Tokyo platform the poster display and all the public activity going on around it.
April - Art in Motion: is a series of short films showing different artists actually in the process of creating their own work. These were shown on digital projection screens (2 m high x 3.7m wide) on the Westbound Central line platform at Liverpool Street.
August Amy Winehouse: Two weeks after the death of the singer Amy Winehouse, Art Below are featured a special tribute billboard poster to the late singer by Johan Andersson at Camden Town tube station on Northern line Platform 1.
October - Art Below & Saatchi Gallery at Regents Park Tube on route to Frieze: Alongside the Saatchi Gallery Art Below featured artists from Channel 4's New Sensations on Platform 2 of Regents Park.
January - Art Of Angel: a four day exhibition, which opened at the Candid Arts Trust in Angel on Thursday 19 January with an launch event, that included live painting performances by Inkie, Johan Andersson, and Johan Wahlstrom, as well as a live Music set by Orlando Seale and The Swell. An installation of artwork on the London Underground at Angel Tube station ran concurrently, featuring artists such as Philip Levine, Sarah Maple and Julie Umerle. This was timed to coincide with the London Art Fair, an annual event in the London arts calendar.
February - New Orleans: Art Below carried out their first "pop up" billboard show in America in New Orleans, bringing local and international artists together during the most festive time of the year, Mardi Gras.
June - Jubilee: celebration of 60 years of the Queen's Jubilee, Art Below showcased the works of 60 artists from 12 countries in 20 underground stations throughout Central London.
October - The Peace Project: was a collaboration between peace activists and contemporary artists.
November - Aka Below: to go alongside the AKA Peace Exhibition at the ICA Art Below featured selected works from Peace One Day's AKA projected.
April - Thatcheristic: to co-inside with Margaret Thatcher's funeral, Art Below opened 'Thatcheristic' at London's Gallery Different. 10 UK based artists have been invited to reveal their depictions in portrait form to the general public. Selected works from the exhibition were due to feature at Westminster tube from 22 April including a large pixellated close-up of Margaret Thatcher's tearful eye whilst leaving Downing Street for the last time by Saatchi New Sensations Winner Jonny Briggs.
August - Africa Centre Showcase: in support of the Africa Centre Summer Festival Art Below ran a one week showcase of photography curated by Yinka Shonibare on cross track projection screens at Covent Garden station.
October - Art Wars: Art Below showcased Art Wars for 4 weeks across billboard space on an entire platform of Regent's Park Underground station to coincide with Frieze. A free mobile App was available created specially for 'Art Wars' by artist Erin Ko and enabled tube users at Regent's Park station to view and explore the Stormtrooper billboards in 3D with their phones.
March/April - Stations of the Cross: Art Below presents an exhibition of 20 artists representations of the Passion of Christ in London's St Marylebone Parish Church for 40 days, in support of the Missing Tom Fund. The works were also on display to the public on billboard space across major London Underground stations.
Press and controversy
Art Below has found itself in two controversies.
The poster 'Forgive us our Trespassing' by Banksy, promoting Exit Through the Gift Shop, was censored by Transport for London, after a halo was added to it (possibly by Banksy), because of the prevalence of graffiti in the underground. It was displayed without the halo over the boy's head, but after a few days the halo was repainted (again possibly by Banksy), so Transport for London disposed of it.
The National Victims' Association (NVA) objected to the display of the art of Charles Bronson at Angel station for two weeks in 2010. The association stated that the victims would find it depressing that a criminal would be allowed to display his artwork on a public space.
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- "'Boy soldiers' artwork shown outside Parliament," BBC News, 19 February 2011.
- Siobhan Morrin, “Peace Of Art,” Don't Panic, 16 January 2011.
- “Art Below to Unveil London Peace Plinth in Los Angeles,” fadwebsite.com, 5 April 2012.
- Saba Salman, "Artists re-imagine iconic Star Wars design to launch new search for missing man," The Social Issue, 30 September 2013.
- Crushing Force, artnet.com. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Daisy Wyatt, "Art Wars: Damien Hirst and Yinka Shonibare give Stormtrooper helmets a makeover," The Independent, 8 October 2013.
- Leigh Silver, "Artists Join the Dark Side and Create Stormtrooper Helmets for ‘Art Wars’," Complex, 2 October 2013.
- Josh Giltrap, "A long time ago in a gallery far far away," GQ, 12 September 2013.
- "Thatcheristic: New exhibition showing a different side to the Iron Lady", Evening Standard, 12 April 2013.
- "Ada Zanditon". Adaz.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- "Art Below: Ben Moore on his very own underground arts scene". The Guardian (U.K.). 23 Nov 2009. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- "Biography". Scarlett Raven. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- "Sarah Maple official website". Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- Julie Umerle at Art Below
- "Art Below Zero". London: independent.co.uk. 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- "Liverpool Street Tube station unveils video artwork". BBC News. 5 April 2011.
- "Peace One Day’s 2012 Art Project". peaceoneday.org. 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- ArtLyst, Art of Angel Launches For London Art Fair Week, 9 Jan 2012
- "London Underground Banksy work regains its halo". BBC News. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- "Underground mystery as Banksy work regains its halo". London Evening Standard. Thisislondon.co.uk. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- Dangerfield, Andy (28 April 2010). "Charles Bronson artwork on London Underground". BBC News. Retrieved 2011-12-25.