London’s Public Art
article by Jen Barnes (@JenBarnes207)
No, I’m not talking about the thousands of traditional statues that fill all of the public parks in this city. I’m talking about the contemporary pieces. No, not Banksy (but if you do want street murals, the Time Out London blog published a piece about London’s murals).
I’m talking about the sculptural pieces commissioned and built fairly recently that are popping up all over our fair city. You may love them or you may hate them or you may not even notice them…but you should at least know that every day you walk by works produced by some of the most renowned sculptors in Britain.
Sometimes these are funded publically and sometimes they are funded privately. For better or for worse, you find yourself encountering works of contemporary art in plazas and on street corners.
#1 Richard Serra’s Fulcrum | City of London: Broadgate
Perhaps not as controversial as Tilted Arc, the disputed sculpture in New York City that was eventually taken down due to public outrage at the way the sculpture interrupted movement in the space, Fulcrum is a striking piece in its own right.
#2 Μark Wallinger’s The White Horse | Outside the British Council
Only very recently unveiled, Mark Wallinger’s life-sized horse statue is only a pint-sized version of the piece proposed for the Ebbslfeet Valley. In 2010, Futurecity, a public art consultancy in London, proposed a monumental statue for Ebbsfleet valley to be the “Angel of the South” (read about the Angel of the North). Mark Wallinger’s proposal was chosen from a shortlist of 5 artists.
#3 Εlmgreen & Dragset’s Powerless Structures Fig. 101 | The Fourth Plinth
A golden boy on a rocking horse is the most recent addition to Trafalgar Square and the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth. Love him or hate him, you can’t help but notice him. Gleaming gold and a much less powerful figure than the others that inhabit the square, the boy on the rocking horse stands out. The piece will be replaced later this year as the Fourth Plinth programs rolls on.
#4 Shirazeh Houshiary East Window | Church of St Martin’s in the Field, Trafalgar Square
The brief was simple: create a replacement window for the stained glass window that had been ruined by the London bombings during the war. The result was simple. Regardless of your religious affiliation, it is easy to agree that East Window is a stunning addition to London’s public art scene.
#5 Richard Wilson’s Square the Block | LSE
Richard Wilson’s piece Square the Block is as subtle as it is shocking and it’s a nice reminder that art can be anywhere. A major architectural intervention, Square the Block has been regarded as a “five story high work.” So next time you are walking around London, don’t forget to look up! You never know what you’ll find.
This list is not exhaustive, nor should it be taken to represent the best public works in London. It’s simply a small collection of contemporary pieces that make us think about the role of art in public spaces. So, the next time you walk around….look around. Free art is everywhere. London’s streets are a gallery.
You may also want to check Jen’s 5 Must-See Art Galleries in London.