Edinburgh University seeking to solve the great pop art puzzle

For more than 30 years they graced the interior of Tottenham Court Road Underground station in London, impressing countless millions of passing travellers '“ before being torn down in 2015 to make way for the Crossrail project.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi by his mural.
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi by his mural.

Now the public is being asked for its views on what should be done with the remnants of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s famous mosaics, which once decorated the walls of the station’s main entrance hall.

Edinburgh University salvaged more than 600 pieces of the Leith-born pop artist’s original 1984 work after it was removed – but not before more than half of the mosaic was lost forever.

As the work cannot simply be reconstructed due to the missing pieces, the university is now set to hold a public symposium on the subject, with the hope of solving the conundrum.

"Tottenham Court Road stn Central line mosaic" by Eduardo Paolozzi -

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    The meeting at Edinburgh College of Art next month will bring together art historians, curators and conservation experts to discuss what should be done with the remaining pieces.

    Liv Laumenech, the university’s public art officer, said: “It is not very straightforward. We don’t have one whole arch, or one large part of an archway – but they are really beautiful.

    “It is a jigsaw. But when you are faced with 45 per cent of the original, you have to stop and think and say, ‘Where do we go with this’?”.

    One idea is to treat the remaining pieces like a damaged Classical mosaic, allowing them to be rearranged with the missing portions left blank.

    "Tottenham Court Road stn Central line mosaic" by Eduardo Paolozzi -

    Another option would be to create a new artwork out of the mosaic tiles and place them in an underground setting in Edinburgh.

    Ms Laumenech added: “We feel that anything is possible, because the context has been removed, you have sizeably less of the art work, so for me this is why we are holding the symposium, to create parameters of what we could do, and give students and the general public and idea of what could happen.

    “Personally I like the idea of retaining some element of the story of the mosaics. If you are talking about conservation, best practice is to save what’s there, not re-do anything, but at the same time its exciting to discuss what we could do with them.”