The dominance of mobile phones is sadly reducing the red London phone box to little more than a curiosity and a tourist attraction. However, the iconic structure has been given a serious make-over, being transformed into a city-wide public art project.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the ChildLine charity, 85 phone boxes which have been redesigned by the likes of architect Zaha Hadid, model Lily Cole, cartoonists Modern Toss, milliner Philip Treacy, and fashion designer Julien Macdonald, will go on display. The BT ArtBox project will see the creations dotted about London in a colourful treasure hunt.
Designs range from leopard print, photomontages, camouflage, abstract assemblages, Jubilee-themed boxes and even a padded telephone box. Photographer Willie Christie has used a photograph of creative director of US Vogue Grace Coddington’s lips to adorn his phone box. She is his ex-wife and, appropriately, the box will be placed outside the Vogue headquarters in London.
Malcolm Garrett, BT ArtBox curator and the man who designed record sleeves for bands such as Buzzcocks, says: “London is one of the premier art capitals of the world and it is important that it fully embraces projects like this, especially at times when the eyes of the world are upon it.”A selection of the ArtBoxes went on display in Trafalgar Square today, they will then be moved to landmark locations around the capital including Covent Garden, St Pancras Station, Carnaby Street, The Ritz, outside Big Ben, in Hyde Park and even in the shark tank at London Aquarium.
“It brings art out from the rarefied atmosphere of the art gallery and places it directly into the community,” Garrett says.Selected boxes will be auctioned on July 18 at The National Portrait Gallery to raise funds for ChildLine.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the BT ArtBoxes as they’re incredibly diverse and should look fantastic when they’re placed across the city,” ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen tells Scout London. “Ben Shine’s Long Distance ArtBox, which features a giraffe popping out the top, and Cosmo Sarson’s Peekaboo ArtBox are very eye-catching so I’ll be looking out for them.”
One of the most recognisable London designs will be by New Zealand artist, Mandii Pope. She says: “I looked at the shape of the BT ArtBox and figured if I could make or find a Big Ben roof, I could combine two British icons, utilising the existing shape of the phone box. It would then be perfectly suited as an icon of London.”Pope’s design features some hidden details, such as Olympians and London marathon runners. The Queen and Will and Kate can be spied waving out of the top windows.
Taking the near-obsolete and bringing it bang up to date will be the TweetBox, created by Alasdair Scott, which will display the BT ArtBox Twitter feed. People tweeting while close to the box will have their photo taken by the box, which can then be shared with their followers.
BT ArtBoxe: Celebrating a British Icon
From June 15