The pop culture status of the distinctive, and totally topographically inaccurate, London Underground map has been affirmed by its replication as art: Simon Patterson's The Great Bear, a faithful copy of the Tube diagram produced with the help of a signwriter, was part of the artist's Turner Prize submission last year. With the stations replaced by famous names, from Aristotle to George Best, and grouped along themed lines - fittingly the Circle Line became the Philosophers' Line - it is not surprising that London Transport felt its proposed display on platforms would (further) confuse tourists and commuters.
MIND THE GAP
But as long ago as 1913, LT itself was aware of the potential of maps for imaginative reconstruction. Their jolly "day out" posters - including an inspired one for the Tate featuring an unfinished underground map oozing out of a tube of oil paint - were preceded by the commission of decorative maps, and some of these will be on view at the London Transport Museum's "Joy of Maps" exhibition, which opened yesterday. From Macdonald Gill's pioneering By Paying Us Your Pennies (1913), to works from the 1920s and 1930s, the maps imaginatively combine how-to-get-there information with artistic detail.
To compliment the exhibition, the museum has organised a series of map- related events designed to get the kids on the right track over Easter, and divert the grown-ups too. Youngsters can join in special map-reading trails round the museum (27 Mar-12 Apr), and attend workshops to create their own mobiles (28-30 Mar, 5-6 Apr), travel board (or bored?) games (31 Mar-1 Apr), and personalised maps (9 Apr). The museum's assistant curator will talk about the decorative maps on 9 Apr (3pm) and a panel of experts, including the curator of the National Railway Museum's poster collection, are all aboard for a Joy of Maps poster seminar (26 Apr, pounds 10/pounds 7.50). Screenings of a film about Harry Beck's classic Underground map are also scheduled.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
If, despite colourful maps, you remained unconvinced of the aesthetic appeal of the warrens beneath the capital, the wonderful permanent exhibitions at the National Railway Museum in York will be complemented by special Easter events, including workshops for the kids, interactive tours, and two educational travel-related shows: All 4 One details the history of the railways (31-Mar-3 Apr), and Livewire (1-3 Apr) is a hip-hop infused parable about the dangers of playing on the railways.
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