Dr Who watch out! A universally recognised British icon is being showcased as part of a new art event in London this summer called ArtBox and sponsored by BT. Nearly 85 red telephone boxes, each one decorated by a different artist, are being placed in different locations around the city and later auctioned off to raise money for Childline.
We’ve had painted elephants, then giant painted eggs, now painted phone boxes. I’d imagine the days of the ubiquitous red public phone box (remember the Button A and the Button B?) are numbered given that almost everyone from an 8 year old to an 80 year old now has a mobile phone, so perhaps this is BTs swansong to the design classic of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The original design dates from 1936, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Fitting that this coincides with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubiliee and 25 years of Childline.
There are just a few of the very first design still in use, and you can find one in London at the Royal Academy in London’s Piccadilly, nestling in the shadows beneath the entrance arch It’s the original prototype, made of wood and was the template for all later red telephone box designs.
Right up until the 1980s, most people in the UK didn’t have a phone in their home and if you were out. Well, public telephones were a necessity.
You will also find some phone boxes that are black. These are non-BT payphones, and most of them were set up by New World Payphones (now Spectrum Interactive). These don’t evoke the same instant recognition and are not all that popular.
But what on earth whoever has enough readies to acquire one of these Art Boxes (Think – Chairman of Barclays Bank) is going to do with it defies my imagination. They don’t have any phones in them! No wonder most tourists think us (or should that be ‘we’) British are eccentric.
Rob & Nick Carter’s ArtBox is an illumintated spectrum of multicolours. It creates a nice space. It seems airy, you know? And reminiscent of stained glass windows; there’s this tranquility I get when I’m around stained glass windows. Phoneboxes should have them!
Its just a phone box …
Every week 7.7 million listeners tune into the UK’s Biggest Commercial Radio Brand. let’s hope they don’t all try and get inside the phone box at once!
To save gold lids from landfill, cover to create a golden uniform box of glisten.
Come again? Oh, they used a load of beer bottle tops on this one.
“The Circus, a place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.” (A. Bierce)
United by their fascination with them and inspired by a childhood desire to run away with one, two artists transformed their Art Box into a giant, travelling Circus. Painstakingly painted by hand & covered with beautiful, colourful embellishments they hope their box will inspire, amuse & entertain visitors to the streets of Covent Garden in London.
Butterflies are strong and powerful, not vulnerable and delicate as we might think.
What on earth is he on about? And why does it look like the magician Dynamo on the side?
T for Telephone’ changes the form of the familiar phone kiosk, manipulated into an enormous letter ‘T’. For telephone. Presumably the figure on top is the BT Gremlin.
Evoking memories of the childhood game, hide and seek ‘Peekaboo’ invites you to consider issues of loneliness and neglect, and the role of the ‘finder’, which can be attributed to ChildLine.
Proud of their London heritage, the ArtBox sports Accessorize’s trademark Union Jack design – customized and embellished in true Monsoon fashion.
Quintessentially English, the phone box promises to be a playful, enduring memory for whomever passes by.
No, Harvey Nicols is NOT the Mayor of London. Its the emporium favoured by Patsy and Edina of AbFab fame.
An illustrated BT ArtBox that celebrates the style and eccentric glamour of Knightsbridge.
Well dressed characters are on the phone. In the background familiar scenes of London and Knightsbridge pass by the lovers / friends / strangers who remain encapsulated in their own phone worlds.
Came across another, recently planted. Seems to me a bit of a cop out. and reminds me of the Dire Straits “In the Gallery” lyrics
And then you get an artist who says he doesn’t want to paint at all
He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on a wall
Given the amount of graffiti around London, I wonder how long it will be before this one gets some impromptu art treatment with a spray can.
A particularly quirky one, with a giraffe bursting through the top, apparently grazing on the tree planted nearby.
Benjamin Shine was inspired by the telephone as a worldwide connector, and his design Long Distance playfully celebrates the incredible reach this technology provides us. Extending far beyond the well-crafted confines of the iconic British phone box, today’s technology continues to push the boundaries through visual media and video calling – where distant worlds are seemingly transported into our own. Looks to me as if its become part of the typical London phone box fraternity with a broken window already! It wasn’t planned, but I noticed that there’s a Vodaphone advert on a taxi dividing the two BT telephones in the shot – somewhat ironic.
3D celebrates the telephone box’s original potential for facilitating the realisation of dreams and desires – by affording the possibility of contact and thus the act of decision making, so says the artist Denis Masi.
Rangoli consists of lots of brightly coloured screen prints based on Hindu temple imagery. Krishna is the Hindu god of love and has a playful nature and is replicated in colours that reflect the purity of blue and the sensuality of red, the representation of life and happiness in green. Artist Natasha Kumar describes it as a welcoming, eye-catching means of communication to bring children good fortune and love through Childline.
A mobile phone for giant hands! Takes you back to when mobile phones were the size and weight of a house brick – almost.
Not so long ago there was a dearth of public phone boxes in London, then a lot of old ones were brought out of retirement, mostly because like iconic red buses and black taxis, the phone boxes are what tourists associate with London. BT has a legal duty to provide a “universal service” and currently operates about 141,000 boxes across the UK.
- First one in operation 1884 (8 years after the invention of the telephone)
- 2m calls a day (hard to believe when you never see anyone using any)
- 15% of 999 calls
- 45% Childline calls
- Vandalism: £1m
- Theft costs £6m
- Min charge 20p
Did you know you can own your own, personal, phone box? If you have a spare £2,500 down the back of the sofa, you can own one, from Uniquely British. They weigh a whopping 750kg.
Of course, you might want to see what a ‘real’ phone box looks like – a typical example with a door that doesn’t close properly, even though its been spruced up for the Olympics! Coin boxes take 20p as a minimum fee and only return money in 10p units. Some you can use a card in. Most seem to be used as a photo opportunity for tourists to pose in.
Of course, if you’re an O2 customers, you’re probably not impressed by the continuing loss of service that seemed to start on Wednesday 11 July. O2 confirm that the problem with their mobile service is due to a fault with one of their network systems, which has meant some mobile phone numbers are not registering correctly on the O2 network. May be there will be more people queuing to use a Red Phone Box!