For city dwellers riding the subway is a necessary evil. Unlike other major cities, riding Stockholm’s underground (or tunnelbana) is an altogether different experience. Many of the stations are decorated with unusual pieces of artwork to help keep even the most mundane trips (Monday morning) that little bit more enjoyable.
Astute commuters in Stockholm might have noticed that each carriage sports a different name, so you could be traveling to work with Birger Jarl or even Anakin.
Since the construction of two commuter train lines between Slussen and Skanstull in 1933, Stockholm’s underground system was a brainchild of the Swedish state. Later, in the 1950s, it would finally see the light and incorporate a delightful and artsy experience for its users.
The red line is no exception. Though there are many stations to enjoy on a daily basis, here are four routes and some highlights to keep an eye out for on your next trip.
Arguably the most popular display of art in the underground, the station of Stockholm University features a large and permanent exhibition by Françoise Schein, which is comprised of 12 tiled screens entitled “Carl Von Linné” or “The art of looking.” These, as the name reveals, are inspired by the works of Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, with large maps and representations of his contributions. Likewise, the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is proudly erected on one of the tiled screens – very proper for an educational institution such as SU. The station was built in 1975, but the art works were incorporated in 1998.
This station features the work of Siri Dekert, one of the pioneer artists that took part in the incorporation of art works in Stockholm’s underground during the 1950s. Dekert’s work decorates the walls in the platforms as an homage to the arts, emphasizing the connection between freedom and the environment, as well as the involvement of noted female authors and creators. The bars to L’Internationale and La Marseillase are featured on the walls as well, as a constant reminder of the ideology that propelled Sweden in the 1950s. Both the station and the artwork date from 1955.
This station is located in the hippest district of Stockholm, Södermalm, and as such, has a trippy and hip demeanor to it. The famous exit towards Götgatan receives the commuter with “Opponer” by Sune Fogde: a lacquer and plaster composition onto a wall that reminds us of the swinging sixties – and right on the decade, as it was incorporated into the station in 1965. In the same vein, Aston and Birger Forberg’s relief in marble concrete entitled “Entré 70 öre,” incorporated in 1966, reminds us of a simpler time when the underground ticket was worth 70 cents. Those were the days.
Last but not least is Midsommarkransen’s nostalgic feeling of the idyllic by (village) in the middle of Stockholm. This patch of nature-laced beauty receives the commuter with the feeling of a midsummer dream. A large illustration of old Midsommarkransen spreads out before our gaze, along with a large midsummer crown hanging from the ceiling to remind us of traditional Sweden. The large wooden and summery reliefs of Anna Flemström, Stina Zetterman and Hans Nilsson were incorporated in 1979, while Lisbeth Lindholm and Dag Wallin’s works were welcomed to the station in 1990.
You can see the history of the works of art in Stockholm’s subway system in Stockholms Lokaltrafik’s (SL) webpage (in Swedish): http://sl.se/sv/Om-SL/Det-har-ar-SL/Konsten-i-trafiken/Konst-i-tunnelbanan/
You can also go on a guided tour of approximately an hour and a half. The program for spring is here: http://sl.se/sv/Om-SL/Det-har-ar-SL/Konsten-i-trafiken/Guidade-visningar/ (in Swedish)
words // Valeria Villegas