An online campaign is urging Sadiq Khan to showcase the work of “struggling” local artists on the London Underground after an iPad creation by David Hockney caught the attention of the internet.
Hockney’s controversial piece was the first of a series of major art projects launched as part of Let’s Do London, a £7 million programme aimed at bringing in domestic tourism to help boost the capital’s economy as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
However, Laura Nevill, from Wanstead, east London, said the artwork commissioned for Piccadilly Circus was a “missed opportunity” to support artists who have struggled during the pandemic, and has started an online campaign which dozens of other creatives have since joined.
Ms Nevill began by replacing Hockney’s art, which features a bright yellow circle with Piccadilly Circus written across the centre, with a mock up of her own work as a tube station poster.
The illustration shows a moon and sun and bears the words “I did nothing today and that’s OK”.
“I think we should get Sadiq Khan to use the #LetsDoLondon campaign to highlight actual London artists who have incredible talents and important messages to showcase,” she said on Twitter.
“No hate to Hockney but this was a terrible missed opportunity.”
Many other creatives have since followed suit, mocking up a variety of their own tube artworks expressing messages of hope, thanks to the NHS and support for people suffering with mental health issues.
Ms Nevill, 29, told the PA news agency: “I’m a Hockney fan myself, I have been to his exhibitions before and I’ll be going to the exhibition in the summer.
“I get the light-heartedness of the piece that he’s made… it’s provoked a response in the public, which is amazing, because it gets people who aren’t interested in art talking about art.”
Hockney’s work was provided for free but has prompted a mixed response online, with some mocking the child-like sketch style of his illustration.
“What annoyed me was that this has been pushed as a launch of the Let’s Do London campaign, which is aiming to bring tourism to London to get people back out and excited to be out in the city and exploring. And yet it wasn’t used as an opportunity to support the artists who have struggled over the last year.
“When I mocked up my artwork, it was because it’s a message that I would want to see on the tube around the city because it’s a positive message.
“Everyone’s struggled with their mental health over the last year, and I think it’s great that we’re all having a conversation about it now.”
Ms Nevill put out her artwork on Instagram using the hashtag #LetsDoLondonBetter, prompting dozens of artists to photoshop their own work onto London underground posters.
Many of those put forward featured positive messages – including one from illustration and print designer Lauren Marina bearing the sun with the message “brighter days are coming”.
Another, by local artist Rachael Presky, showed people dancing while wearing masks, while a work by Emmy Lupin displayed two women hugging with the word “finally”.
Ms Nevill told PA: “I didn’t really expect this response from everyone, but the pieces that I’ve been sent are incredible.
“I’m getting messages from people saying, ‘wow, I would absolutely love to see these pieces of art on the underground’.
“Why don’t we have more opportunities for emerging artists to have their work in a public space where the thousands of people that come through the city every day can see it?
“The network has such a huge space, because they have so many adverts on the tubes in the underground. Can we can we create a public space where emerging artists can display their work, or can get commissioned to do work that can be displayed in the city?”
Ms Nevill has been creating her own artwork alongside her full-time job as a designer for the past seven years, with art becoming her focus during the pandemic after she was placed on furlough.
She told PA: “I would absolutely love to be able to speak to Sadiq or to speak to TfL (Transport for London) and try and get some sort of public space where emerging artists can be commissioned and paid to show their artwork in a public area.
“If it’s a part of this Let’s Do London campaign that would obviously be incredible.”
Features of Let’s Do London will range from art installations, to extended opening hours of museums and galleries in the capital over summer.
A spokesman for the Mayor of London’s office said: “David Hockney did his new tube art completely for free, and it was commissioned around his new Royal Academy Exhibition.
“Supporting creative freelancers, artists and performers will be at the heart of ‘Let’s Do London’ as it continues to develop throughout the year.”