What is public property? Is it the streets we walk on or the parks we sunbathe in? Can art be public property and what happens when you take it out of the stuffy confines of a gallery and plop it right in front of an office or train station?
Two initiatives launched this week that play around with these ideas. One, Sculpture in the City, is an annual event currently enjoying its eighth year in the Square Mile. The other is the Frieze Sculpture Park, which is part of the wider Frieze art festival in Regents Park. The latter is in its second year scattering abstract structures around the English Gardens in an attempt to bring the public into the sometimes haughty fold of the fine art world.
In the City, the 18 artworks that have been chosen are placed outside famous buildings and landmarks so theyre hard to avoid, creating a playful juxtaposition with skyscrapers like 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) and The Leadenhall Building (The Cheesegrater).
Sculpture in the City takes us on a cultural safari through the medieval lanes and postmodern plazas of the City of London
Its expanded, too, adding four new locations to the mix that reach into the historic corners of the City, such as Heneage Lane and Hartsthorn Alley, where different renditions of the theme from “The Great Escape” will be whistled from the walls at pedestrians passing through.
Holiday Home by Richard Woods
This years selection includes more impressive international names, including Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Thomas J Price, Sean Scully and Nancy Rubins.
Marina Abramovic is another coup, bringing “Tree” (1972) to an actual tree at 99 Bishopsgate that regales passersby with birdsong. Theres also an interactive element to Juliana Cerqueira Leites three metre tall obelisk “Climb”, a pocket park in Mitre Square.
“Sculpture in the City takes us on a cultural safari through the medieval lanes and postmodern plazas of the City of London to encounter some of the most exciting public art being made in the world today,” says Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery, one of the partners of the programme, along with a host of local businesses and the City of London Corporation itself.
Stack Blues by Sean Scully
To celebrate the centenary of female suffrage, half of the artworks are by women this year. Gender parity was also a goal for the Frieze Sculpture Park. Half of the 25 works are created by female artists there, too, encompassing four continents.
Organisers have taken a leaf out of the V&As book and put on a family trail this year lined with activities and free workshops, as well as an audio guide in collaboration with digital platform ARTimbarc.
Among the architectural delights is Richard Woods “Holiday Home”, which is meant to be an ironic comment on Londons lack of decent housing, and Rana Begums “No. 814”, a strategically placed series of coloured panels that create a rainbow skyline on the ground.
Sculpture is where art meets architecture and, thanks to these huge public programmes, all it takes is a wander around at lunch time or a trip to the park to see some of the best in the world.