You might not associate public transportation with art – but metro systems around the world are filled with mosaic art displays. Each of these amazing subway stops has a beautiful art installation that will make you wish you had them on your morning commute! Let’s take a trip around the world to visit six cities and 20 cool installations.
Like many other cities around the world, the Russian capital has elevated its subways and trains stations with mosaic murals and ceilings. Unlike other cities, however, the decor includes the occasional chandelier!
Built in1935, the system was utilized as a canvas for public art. As workers traveled the system daily, many Stalin-era builds featured designs customized to the location. This created a single-theme installation – and a lot of variety, for anyone visiting the city. With themes ranging from electric appliances to daily Soviet life, the Metro has become a tourist attraction on its own merits.
- Mayakovskaya Station, Moscow
Named for poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, this station highlights Russian achievements. The mosaics are recessed in the ceiling, each framed by light arrays. The surrounding materials of pink rhodolite, grey marble, and stainless steel blend with the array of scenes.
The 33 scenes include a dazzling spectrum of events in the sky, including this airy group of parachuters, aerialists, and aviation pilots.
- Belorusskaya Station
This location focuses on daily life in Belarus – which looks pretty idyllic in these depictions. The station opened in 1952and received a Stalin prize for its superior architecture. 12 arches are crowned with Belarussian themes, each a marble mosaic.
If you’re able to pause a moment and appreciate them, you’ll see simple agricultural life combined with more patriotic pursuits, such as soldiers defending their republic.
- Komsomolskaya Station
Big, grand, and yes, lighted by chandeliers, this metro stop has everything in excess. A central transportation point, it is heavy on patriotic scenes from Russian history. You’ll see the full range of national heroes, victorious rulers, and generals.
The mosaic art overhead (once you can tear yourself away from ogling all the frosting and bold yellow color scheme) is an enormous triptych, composed of glass mosaic tiles.
- Chekhovskaya Station
Unique, with its use of stones native to Russia, this mosaic wall art is a bit hidden when the trail is parked at the platform. Once clear, however, you can appreciate an ode to Anton Chekhov’s works. The mosaic artists utilized the Florentine technique and brought the scenes to life with all types of semi-precious stones and minerals. Lapis lazuli, jasper, and even local sandstones were blended into the beautiful vistas.
- Dobryninskaya Station
An interesting side note to the mosaic art installations at this location is the changes they’ve undergone. When it opened in 1950, Stalin was featured on more than one piece of mosaic art. After the leader was denounced by Nikita Kruschev in 1956, sections of the murals were removed and replaced with other subjects. For example, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin popped up in the section below.
- Novoslobodskaya Station
Glass, in mosaic tiles and windows, creates a luminous glow in this underground location. First, the exultant mother and child image, made of large sections of gold glass and marbles. It’s surrounded by pristine white marble and creates a strong focal point at the end of the subway hall. If one looks closely, the dove of peace above the banner, which reads “Peace in all the world”, a discerning eye can see that the doves are a later addition to the mosaic wall art. They replaced an image of Stalin.
- Novokuznetskaya Station
Companions to the overhead scenes at the Mayakovskaya Station (and by the same artist, Deyneka), these octagonal glass mosaics hover over the passengers below. They depict an interesting perspective of the earth-bound traveler, watching wonders of Soviet progress overhead.
Views of machines in factories as they are lifted overhead, a high-speed train, and a range of victorious athletes were meant to inspire the people into excellence.
The world’s longest art exhibit? That’s what people say about Stockholm’s subway system. The line has 110 km of stations – all packed with art installations from the 1950s onward. Many of them are pieces of mosaic art – which is, of course, our focus!
- Thorildsplan station
This 2008 mosaic wall art installation by Lars Arrhenius might remind you a bit of the humorous mosaic artwork by French artist Invader. Like many of those works, this one uses pixelated tiles to show characters and scenes from video games like Super Mario and Pac-Man.
Heading down the ramps to the train is intended to make the viewer feel as if they’re descending into their own adventure.
- T-Centralen Station
Check the walls to appreciate how the station utilizes a sophisticated color blend of 1950s tiles and color schemes to highlight important information for commuters.
- Fridhemsplan Station
This station, among other things, has a tile installation featuring robots. Each of the scenes depicts the curvy automatons as they help to improve the environment.
- Gamla Stan Station
More mosaic floor tiles are on view here – this installation is on the main platform. The art represents the location of the Old Town to the water – it’s on an island.
- Universitetet – Françoise Schein Station
One can spend the bulk of their visit to Stockholm tracking down the scores of art installations – it’s truly intended to be a museum for the people. We’ll hop off the metro here, at the. This mural, by Schein, depicts the journey of Carl von Linné across the Baltic Sea.
- Szent Gellért Square
Although the system lacks the commitment to mosaic artwork that we’ve seen in Stockholm, the tilework In the station in Budapest is often cited as a must-see for visitors.
Image source architizer.com
- Central Station
The city’s Line 1 is a Unesco-listed treasure – and the world’s second-oldest underground system. Look up, and you’ll see mosaic installations that go back to the first days of the subway – it was opened in 1896.
- Olaias Station
This stop uses mosaic tile in a dizzying array of patterns and bright colors – making any trip through it memorable – maybe even a bit dreamlike. A collaboration between architect Tomás Taveira and artists António Palolo created the experience of walking in a kaleidoscope.
- Caís Do Sodré station
Elsewhere in the city, this station is not as wildly colorful, but its abstracted works by artist abstract artist António Dacosta are filled with busy movement and whimsy.
Mexico City, Mexico
- Copilco Metro Station
FIlled with mosaic mural art, this platform offers a history lesson as a side to its aesthetically pleasing experience. The large-scale piece The Profile of Time (El Perfil del Tiempo) by Guillermo Ceniceros depicts many important figures and scenes from the country’s history. Measuring over 1000 feet long, it may be difficult to take in all one viewing.
Pyeongyang, North Korea
New and meant to be dazzling, this line’s stations are meant to impress. Along with plenty of new technology, the locations are embellished with sparkling glass mosaic art. The general theme for the subway art installations is North Korean revolutionary themes, such as “Reunification” or “War Comrade”. The mosaic art was installed by Mansudae Art Studio, which handles North Korean public art.
- Puhung Station
A bit dreamier than some of the other views, the Puhung Station’s art looks like a view from the train window on a rainy spring day.
- Ponghawa station
Unified workers stride out boldly at this busy hub. The contrast with the older subway cars can be a bit jarring!
- Juno Station
Presiding over the Pyeongyang commuters, a most earnest and productive worker embraces the Party and her optimal production.
After visiting just a few of the world’s stations, it’s clear that subways have a unique lure for tourists and lovers of mosaic art. The need for durable materials and tiles that can illuminate closed spaces makes mosaic wall art ideal for these public installations.
Please subscribe to our newsletter for future explorations of mosaic art in public spaces, and let us know if you’ve found some gems on your own travels around the world!