What do you do every morning in transit? Are you the kind that switches off, who tries to squeeze in a couple more minutes of beauty sleep in preparation for the day ahead? Or are you those who are completely plugged in with heads superglued to your smart phones? Have you ever thought of travelling with a mobile art gallery? Well, think no further! The reality is closer than you have thought.



genbi-04_NAOKIISHIKAWACAR No.14 Naoki Ishikawa / Photographer


The world’s fastest public transportation, Japan’s famed Shinkansen now offers “fast art” with their new bullet train Genbi Shinkansen, which marries travelling in comfort with travelling in knowledge and culture. Opened on 29 April 2016, this service now runs regularly across the Niigata Prefecture located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. As one of the projects to rebrand this high-speed railway line, Shinkansen invites eight Japanese and international contemporary artists, amongst whom includes New York-based artist Brian Alfred to illuminate on their versions of “contemporary beauty”, which is the literal translation of the Japanese word ‘genbi’ in the name of the Jōetsu Shinkansen line.  



CAR No.13 Kentaro Kobuke / Artist

The non-windowed side of the Genbi Shinkansen’s exterior is covered with colorful photographs of Niigata’s Nagaoka Fireworks Festival by photographer Mika Ninagawa. The rest of the seven participating artists’ works are displayed in individual carriages of the train. Passengers can find, on the screens in coach number 16, Alfred’s animation compiled from the images of sceneries he encountered while travelling; and in coach 14, the Tokyo native, Naoki Ishikawa presents the lagoons in Niigata through photography. Fitting to the function of the vessel that carries the included art, all the works relate to the region’s landscape and culture, surrounding the theme of travelling.

[blockquote width=’100′]

These creative initiatives are extremely refreshing to the banality of our daily commute.




CAR No.16 Brian Alfred / Artist

In fact, the world is no stranger to travelling art galleries. France, as if serendipity was in play, launched The Train of Impressionism back in June 2013 in collaboration with the enterprise 3M and Musée d’Orsay. The interior of the line J train journeying between Paris Gare de Saint-Lazare and Gare de Vernon, including walls and ceilings, is plastered with impressionist art. When passengers lift their heads towards the sky, they are immediately taken in by a film installed on the ceiling of the train including works drawn from the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, such as Pissarro’s Morning, Sun and Monet’s Blue Water Lilies; a view of the Palace of Versailles; and scenes shot by Gaumont Film Company.




Other predecessors include MTA’s Arts & Design annual artist commission programme to design posters that are hung alongside corporate advertisements in cars, metro stations covered in mosaic art, and the Poetry in Motion series displaying lyrical verse on moving walls in New York City, and London’s very own Art on the Underground, which commissions work to be featured on station platforms and includes live performances as well as temporary exhibitions on works by artists like Sarah Lucas, Lawrence Weiner, Wolfgang Tillmans, Trevor Paglen, and many more.

These creative initiatives are extremely refreshing to the banality of our daily commute. Inspiring all to achieve more than just our 9-to-5 routine!