Arts, Culture & Media

Lost Art in London's Underground


Lost Art

There is a new gallery exhibition that is showing a collection of art lost or left behind on London's subway, the Underground. Some of the pieces are quite good and quite big. How could people leave this stuff behind?

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When Richard Walker was given permission to wander around the three floors that house London Transport's lost and found, he was hoping to mount a show featuring the odd things people leave on the subway.

But the creative director of the KK Outlet gallery was in for a surprise.

What really struck us was the artwork that we saw and there were just shelves and shelves of art portfolios and paintings and you sort of immediately felt quite sorry for them because of the sentimental value that must have, that they've got.

But it was like a ready made exhibition. [They were all sort of framed and they never made to their final destination and they never made it to an art gallery. So we decided to give it the show that it deserved.]

Out of the thousands of paintings and photographs Walker saw over the course of a year, he chose 65 for the exhibition.

One of the things I started noticing as we were putting the work together is that you do get a feeling of abandonment of some of the work. Some of the people look lost or missing in some of the portraits. You feel quite sorry for them.

The show opened a few weeks ago with a small splash of publicity. But that led to three long-lost pieces being reunited with their creators. Walker stops in front of one small portrait.

"Well this guy, this is a really interesting piece because he painted a hoodie or a gangster sort of young kid," Walker sasys. "But he's painted him kneeling down and praying. It was quite a challenging image to look at. But he saw it and he phoned up cause we used this as a big poster as well to advertise the show and someone had seen it and sent him a picture and said. 'Is this yours?' And he said 'yeah that's mine' And this is actually a portrait of his brother.

"It's actually quite nice to meet the people behind the work because you don't even know if they are men or women that are painting this at all. You just don't' know anything about them. But you start to paint a picture in your own head about what they might look like. And it's really nice to meet them.

I asked him what more did he find out?

"He is actually an artist and he was taking his work around to show galleries so he was trying to get work and get exhibitions and he wasn't being very successful and then he just left his work on the train which must have been absolutely gutting for him and then he never got it back and it turned up in an exhibition," Walker says. "So he was quite thrilled and shocked at the same time."

The show also features some of the other objects people have left on the tube including a case full of dentures, prosthetic limbs and even a blow up sex doll — though she sits deflated inside her box.

Walker says the artists who have reclaimed their works have no real explanation for leaving them on the tube in the first place. But he can sympathize.

"I did leave an advertising campaign I was working on," he says. "I left that at a station somewhere. But I got it back (he laughs). There are some very honest people in London. You'll be surprised how much, how many items get handed in."

The show is set to close next week, but it may go on tour, possibly leading more lost art to be found again.