24 August 2001

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Touring London - cabbie's mobile gallery

A London cabbie has combined his profession and passion to make his taxi a moving art gallery. Jason Brown is driven by a desire "to show tasteful art to the unsuspecting public." The Hendon 39-year-old picks up fares throughout the capital "as a regular taxi. "But instead of my vehicle being plastered with adverts, it's decorated with customised cab art." His Cab Gallery attracts considerable comment from customers "they are initially surprised but always really encouraging. But I don't discuss the pieces with every passenger. Some people just want a ride, not a lecture."

The project, initiated in 1999, is a collaboration between the cabbie and art dealer Paul Stopler. Having left a career in restaurant management, Mr Brown had opted for taxi-driving "as it would give me the freedom to continue studying the arts." The Cab Gallery seemed a natural progression. "It's never been a commercial venture," he stressed. "If money were to become involved, it would take away the enjoyment."

Jason Brown takes a back seat
Pillow talking points: Jason Brown taking a back seat with some of the exhibits from his moving artistic display

His taxi is adorned with all types of contemporary art, including paintings, pillow cushions, sound-based pieces and books. More than 30 established or up and-coming artists have contributed tailor-made works for his mobile gallery. Among them are Jewish artists Rachel Beckett and Abigail Cohen. Ms Beckett's offering is a cushion made from old London Underground seating material. "It's titled 'Home,' because that's what people think of when they see it," Mr Brown explained. "Ms Cohen provided a cassette of herself singing the infamous speech, 'All the Animals,' from Martin Scorsese's movie, 'Taxi Driver.'" According to the cabbie, the piece is a great accompaniment "for driving round Piccadilly Circus at night in the pouring rain."

However, Mr Brown has decided to close the gallery in November and he has no plans for a relaunch, as he feels the idea has run its course. But a farewell exhibition in the final weeks will allow passengers to view the full catalogue of cab art. "Yes of course I'll miss it," he told the JC. "Unfortunately I don't get to keep the work as it belongs to the artists. At least I've got my own art collection to see me through."