Painted BT Phone Boxes in Trafalgar Square

Once a familiar sight on the streets of the UK, the telephone box has faded from important utility to quaint heritage as the mobile phone killed off the need to visit a specific location to make a phone call.

The derelict pay phone boxes have sometimes been converted into a library, a grocery shop, first aid points, or left to decorously decay into the undergrowth.

Or be turned into art works.

BT ArtBox

This is the latest in a growing trend of getting people to decorate a “shape”, scatter them around London and then sell them off afterwards. Sometimes it works, and frankly, sometimes I look at them and wonder if they chose the person for artistic skills or their celebrity.

This time, BT and ChildLine have chosen the famous post office phone box as their muse, and encouraged suitably famous names to daub paint and other accoutrements on them. Well, actually, white plastic replicas of the phone box. I suspect painting 80 real phone boxes would have given English Heritage a heart attack, as many of them are now listed buildings.

A cluster of some of the phone boxes are on display together in Trafalgar Square today only, then they will be scattered around London for people to hunt down before being flogged off to raise money for the charity.

Sadly, the one which their official press release showed, and which looked the most interesting was not on display this morning, so I may want to hunt that one down. It’s by Gerry Judah and is a white sculpture of the phone box broken into pieces in a rather abstract manner.

BT ArtBox

Others on display included one that needs to be wound up, which then releases artificial flowers from orifices in the box, only to fade away when you let go. Not entirely convinced that will be vandal proof, which is possibly why there were a lot of security guards around the place this morning.

Some are undeniably phone boxes that have been painted, but others have been quite substantially altered in their physical shape. I think the oversized pigeon is probably my favourite sculpture, while this 8-bit computer graphics design was my preferred paint-job.

BT ArtBox

I am informed that the designers include architect Zaha Hadid, fashion designers Giles Deacon, Zandra Rhodes, Philip Treacy, Julien Macdonald, artists Rob & Nick Carter, Ryan Callanan, Martyn Ware and sculptor David Mach RA and interior designer Nina Campbell.

Either deliberately, or just a PR person not thinking properly, but they made the most obvious photo that people will want to take today a bit bloody difficult – Big Ben and BT Ben in the same photo.

BT ArtBox

The phone boxes will be in Trafalgar Square until sundown tonight.

A full gallery of them is here, my photos are here, and they will be on display around London until 18th July.

No, the door on the phone box doesn’t open.

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9 Comments

  1. No doubt there simply wasn’t any thought put to the layout of the boxes in Trafalgar Square aside from “They should be spaced out in a grid, X feet apart from each other east to west, and Y feet apart north to south.” Then the final placement simply came down to the order the workmen pulled them off the trucks.

    “Never ascribe to malice…”

  2. When you say “scattered around London”, do you mean “scattered around the same few square miles of London, preferably in tourist-friendly spots”, or “literally anywhere within the 33 boroughs of Greater London”?

    • IanVisits

      No idea, I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

  3. Steve

    BT have painted some urinals, great more privacy for the punters taking a drunken slash at 2 in the morning.

  4. miranda cobbold

    Please can u tell me when are they going to put all the kiosks in one go so that myself and my son have a look all of them instead of walking around in different places b4 18th july. Like one in the Covent garden piazza where they put all the eggs in one place and the elephant parade too. Fantastic. My son loves designs and he is very creative and won top marks in his school.

    • IanVisits

      You’d need to contact the organisers and ask them if they plan to put them back in one place again.

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