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Wall mosaics, paintings, sculptures and video installations: Vienna’s subway network is one huge gallery. Right now a new “culture passage” featuring an installation by Peter Kogler is springing up beneath Karlsplatz.

Austrian multimedia artist Peter Kogler is has added another work of art to a long line of pieces on display in the capital's subway network. His screen printed glass panels have been on show at Karlsplatz underground station since February 2012. This permanent wall-mounted installation depicts a wallpaper-like network of computer generated pipes in a reference to this busy public transportation hub's interchange function. Kogler's work dovetails neatly with the current remodeling works at Karlsplatz underground station, which is used by more than 200,000 passengers every day. The network of subterranean walkways not only links the U1, U2, and U4 subway stations which intersect here, it also provides a sheltered route linking Karlsplatz and the Ringstrasse. Started in 2010, the station upgrades and refurbishment program is scheduled to continue until 2013 when the light, welcoming and easy-to-navigate Kulturpassage Karlsplatz will open. This new area will also provide off-site exhibition space for nearby cultural institutions such as the Wien Museum, Künstlerhaus, Secession and Kunsthalle.

The tradition of displaying artwork on the capital's public transportation network goes back to the 1990s and the planning of the U3. Dubbed the "cultural line", art played a central role in the new route, with works integrated into 11 of the 21 present day stations. Anton Lehmden, a proponent of the Viennese School of Fantastic Realism, contributed a mosaic for the Volkstheater U3 station. This 360 square meter work depicts Das Werden der Natur (Nature in the Making). Used by 100,000 passengers every day, the Westbahnhof U3 station has its very own piece by Austrian artist Adolf Frohner: at almost 40 meters in length, his Circa 55 Schritte durch Europa (Approx. 55 Steps Through Europe) traces the history of mankind starting from the beginning of evolution and ending with the modern era. At Landstrasse, brightly colored graffiti scenes by Oswald Oberhuber decorate the U3 subway station. Meanwhile at Schweglerstrasse, a video installation by Nam June Paik awaits.

There is also a long tradition of high-value design in public spaces used by the city's public transportation network. When it came to planning the Wiener Stadtbahn (the forerunner of today's underground network) at the end of the 19th century, none other than the leading Austrian architect of the day was chosen to lead the project. Otto Wagner provided the blueprints for major elements including the station buildings and bridges, as well as designing details such as signage, railings and light fittings. It is thanks to this uniform design signature that Vienna's Stadtbahn commuter railway enjoys the status of a Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art.

Wiener U-Bahn-Kunst (Vienna's subway art), published by the Wiener Linien municipal transport authority, provides a valuable insight into the modern art, archaeological treasures and timeless architecture found in the Viennese subway network. Available in German from Wiener Linien info counters (www.wiener-linien.at).

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