Wednesday, July 30, 2014

public art: the city

London is generous with its culture. Many of the museums allow free entry and there are seasonal events that cost nothing to attend and enjoy. But it's London's public art which provides some of the richest sources of inspiration for me. It's the element of surprise that does it.

Christopher Le Brun, City Wing
I usually don't set out to find these monumental works. I turn a corner on foot, or come down the street on the top deck of a bus, and am arrested by the sight of a wing sprouting from the pavement or a strange sunburst of flaming tentacles made of glass.

Dale Chihuly, The Sun

The business district of the City of London is a favourite place to visit on non-business days. It's soothing to enjoy the spaces between the deserted glass towers. 

The fountain at Exchange Square
The buildings are like modern castles, surrounding square courtyards with fountains and statues.

The Broadgate Venus of Fernando Botero
...reclining among the remnants of World Cup celebrations
These days the fountains are carved steppes with broad expanses of rippling water on stone, architectural Zen gardens, and the statues are in all sorts of bizarre forms to challenge the viewers' minds.

Xavier Corbero, The Broad Family. Click this picture for a better view
of the shoes at the bottom of the 'child' sculpture.

Walking home from work, or hurrying to catch the Tube, we bump into a strange collection of figures that startles and then intrigues us.

George Segal, Rush Hour

Many works are worth revisiting at night, in case the location has any more surprises to enjoy.

Rush Hour at night, lit by the changing displays of Finsbury Square.

Jacques Lipchitz, Bellerophon Taming Pegasus
One of my favourite Greek heroes makes an appearance in a side street: an ancient myth told in a new way.

Towering over the Broadgate entrance of Liverpool Street Station is Richard Serra's Fulcrum, an enclosed space made from fabricated steel. Serra is an American sculptor whose metal enclosures are minimalist but enormous, relying on audience participation for the full experience.

His works usually have two or more entrances, encouraging different perspectives. Like much of the City, Serra's work can be expansive and claustrophobic at the same time.

Public art gives me the chance to pause and contemplate, even in the busiest part of the city. It's a chance to connect with another artistic mind, and to share that connection with other viewers, in a brief communal experience.

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