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'Sculpture in the City' juxtaposes marvels of sculptures and architecture in London

The annual exhibition Sculpture in the City in London, under the helm of Artistic Director Stella Ioannou, thrives to reinforce the capital of the UK as a hub of cultural conversations.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 09, 2023

The City of London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is reckoned to be an architectural marvel. A walk through the streets of London unfolds different eras of history to let the flaneur know how it withstood the times that earned it the title "where the sun never sets." The contemporary sculptures dot the iconic structural architecture of London, as part of the annual exhibition Sculpture in the City. The site leads a conversation between the past and the present to retrace the journey between the two time periods. Currently running its 11th edition, the outdoor art exhibition showcases works by both established and emerging artists. The display consists of a variety of forms, mediums and sizes to let the audience see the global contemporary public art.

Sculpture in the City (SiTC) takes place in the City of London's insurance district and is set amongst the iconic architecture of the tall buildings that characterise this busy financial district. Led by the scale and character of its unique urban environment, SiTC injects colour and interest in the urban landscape on a yearly rotating basis. Showcasing sculptural works by leading contemporary artists, in dialogue with the best of old and new architecture, SiTC delivers a dynamic art programme, adding an element of wonder and creativity to the daily life of the thousands of workers, residents, and visitors that flock to the city. 

Summer moon, 2011, Ugo Rondinone, Ugo Rondinone | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Summer Moon, 2011, Ugo Rondinone Image: Courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ, London

Commissioned as part of the City of London Corporation's public realm strategy, the City Cluster is an area defined by iconic contemporary tall buildings such as the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and 22 Bishopsgate. The cultural encounters punctuated by the sculptures included in the trail act both as a barometer and as a source of imagination and playful intervention, sparking conversations that capture the imagination of the public, professional peers in the creative sector, and significant leaders and opinion-makers of the city's business community. 

Habitat, Installation, Pedro Pires | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Habitat, Installation, Pedro Pires Image: Nick Turpin

Sculpture in the City holds an Open Call for submissions for pre-existing works. It is an international call and extends beyond the traditional form of 3D sculpture, to also include 2D and hanging sculpture, as well as light and sound installation. Over 400 submissions were made for the last edition. Stella Ioannou, Artistic Director of Sculpture in the City and director of the creative projects agency, Lacuna, presented these to the Arts Advisory Group, which includes an esteemed group of industry peers, who review and select artworks from the submissions. Additionally, they also provide creative and strategic advice. 

In an interview with STIR, Ioannou further talks about the selection process as a lead-up to the final display, "A shortlist of approximately 25 artworks is then drawn up. I meet each artist or their gallery representative to talk about the specific artwork and review the site together (an area defined by Bishopsgate in the West, Fenchurch St in the South and Bevis Marks / Chamomile St in the East), to establish the best possible location for the artwork and an opportunity for dialogue between the surrounding environment, the artwork and the public."

Burial, 2016, Alice Channer | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Burial, 2016, Alice Channer Image: Nick Turpin; Courtesy of Alice Channer and Konrad Fischer Galerie

To give an example: at Leadenhall Market, Shezad Dawood is presenting Invasion. It is a neon sculpture in the form of a monster emerging from the arcade into the public sphere. The light installation is a reminder of a character borrowed from video games that do not fail to explore the medium as Cold War propaganda. Victor Seaward's Nests replicates phantasmagorical fruits carved out of creative imagination. Interestingly, it functions as aesthetic sculptures as well as bird nests. The sculptures hanging on trees outside 99 Bishopsgate and Aldgate Square are made from enamel and epoxy resin on 3D-printed PETG. 

Within the churchyard of St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, is Alice Channer's work Burial. Shown as part of the 10th edition, the work reinforces the variations of time, with two 'stretched' corten Steel rocks cast from concrete pieces collected from demolition sites across London. Another piece that is from the previous edition is Mike Ballard’s Rough Neck Business at Bishopsgate. Symbolising the fluidity and regeneration of the city, two links of a chain, fashioned from hoardings sourced from sites across London, Rough Neck Business encapsulates the past and future respectively.

Miss, 2021, Emma Louise Moore | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Miss, 2021, Emma Louise Moore Image: Nick Turpin, © Emma Louise Moore

For time immemorial we have witnessed art sculpture as a genre of fine arts that has been admired and practised by many. Ioannou cites a few sculptures from the display, which play with the conventional material to push the boundaries of sculpture-making practice, "Made of painted white aluminium, Summer Moon by Ugo Rondinone is a cast of an ancient olive tree, sited next to the historic St Helen’s church. I love the synergy between the old church that has witnessed so much over the centuries and the wise old olive tree which also symbolises the passing of time.” Fashioned from steel, The Granary by Jesse Pollock is a life-sized traditional English grain store sculpture, with a beaten surface to reflect the brutal reality affecting rural life today. Its shiny candy wrapper colour is enhanced when placed within the closed confinement of Cunard Place, punctuated by highly reflective windows. Emma Louise Moore marks the passing of time with her bold Carrara marble work Miss, allowing the illumination of the work to be ephemeral, with its activation by the sun a momentary phenomenon. 

Nests, 2022, Victor Seaward | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Nests, 2022, Victor Seaward Image: Nick Turpin; Courtesy of Victor Seaward and Brooke Benington

The ambitious public art programme provides the public with an opportunity to bring to everyone's attention the sheer scale, scope and extraordinary quality of contemporary artworks on view in the City Cluster. "Our interaction with each of these artworks is highly personal and direct, providing a platform to engage with a cross-section of society while reinforcing London's position as a world-leading culture capital," mentions Ioannou. 

Making of Sculpture in the City Video: Courtesy of Sculpture in the City and Reuben Black

The art exhibition is a result of the partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London. The initiative is delivered through a partnership between the City of London Corporation in collaboration with Aviva, Bloomberg, Brookfield Properties, CC Land, Hiscox, London & Oriental, Nuveen Real Estate, Tower 42 and 22 Bishopsgate. Project patrons are Aon, JSRE 30 St Mary Axe Ltd; Leadenhall Market, Mtec, PLP Architecture, Price & Myers. 

11th edition of Sculpture in the City is on view in full until April 14, 2023; the 12th edition launches end of June 2023. 

Stella Ioannou’s Portrait | Sculptures in the City | STIRworld
Stella Ioannou Image: Courtesy of Lacuna

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