Looking out for Art

Sculpture in the City

Sally Williams, Keeper of the Inventory

On 9 July 2015 the City of London's annual outdoor art show, 'Sculpture in the City' was launched at The Leadenhall Building, aka The Cheesegrater. Now in its fifth year, the exhibition has grown in stature and reputation and this year boasts 14 works, all by internationally known artists, and was accompanied by a significant educational programme that has engaged children from nine East End schools. The majority of the sculptures are installed in the public thoroughfare – such as Laura Ford's enigmatic Days of Judgement, Cats 1 and 2 on Leadenhall Street – but a few are found in the City's garden spaces featured on the LPGT Inventory. St Botolph Bishopsgate Churchyard has Kris Martin's Altar (2014), which references the famous medieval altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck in Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent. However, Martin has excluded all the exquisite painting, leaving just the metal framework of 12 folding panels, through which viewers are invited to observe the cityscape with fresh eyes. St Helen Bishopsgate Churchyard is the location for Shan Hur's Broken Pillar #12, part of a larger body of work by this artist in which found objects are presented within another structure, again encouraging the viewer to look closely at what might be hidden in seemingly familiar surroundings. The last sculptural work to be installed is Forever by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, which references – ironically – the once ubiquitous bicycle found in Beijing, being displaced by the car. His monumental geometrical stack of bicycles holds its own beneath The Gherkin.

This temporary exhibition, which is in place until May 2016, may lead visitors to discover the many other permanently sited sculptures to be found in the City's gardens and churchyards, some of which are highlighted here.

Since 2009 Wilfred Dudeney's Three Printers of c.1957 can be seen in the delightful sunken Goldsmiths' Garden on Gresham Street. Commissioned by the Westminster Press Group, this stone sculpture, which represents the newspaper process with a newsboy, printer and editor, used to stand by their offices in New Street Square. When the square was redeveloped in an office scheme for Land Securities, the Goldsmiths' Company, as the freeholders of the square, relocated the sculpture to their own garden at Gresham Street, which had been laid out in the 1940s on the site of the churchyard and medieval church of St John Zachary. The developers of New Street Square themselves commissioned a number of works of art for the public spaces, such as Ron Haselden's interactive neon work Day and Night, Night and Day. Another relocated sculpture is found in Brewers' Hall Garden on London Wall. Karin Jonzen's bronze sculpture The Gardener (1971) was commissioned by the Corporation of London and originally sited on a small area of landscaping by Moorgate. It was later removed to make way for a new road scheme and placed on its current site in 2005. The Brewers' Hall Garden is perhaps rather grandly named for what is a series of raised beds, paving and seating laid out on the site of the Brewers' Company garden. Adjacent is the current Brewers' Hall, rebilt in 1960 on the same site as the Company's first hall, destroyed in the Fire of London. There are a number of other sculptures by Jonzen in the City: Beyond Tomorrow (1972) in the Guildhall Piazza and a bust of Samuel Pepys in Seething Lane Gardens, acquired with funds raised by public subscription and presented to the garden in 1983 by Frederick Cleary, Chairman of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, whose name is recalled in the eponymous Cleary Garden on Queen Victoria Street.

Fairly close to the latter garden are the Festival Gardens and St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, both of which have a number of interesting works of art. On the upper western terrace of Festival Gardens is The Young Lovers by Georg Ehrlich, installed in 1973. When re-landscaping of these gardens was undertaken in 2012 as part of a wider project to improve the setting of St Paul's, a new public garden was created to the west of the Festival Gardens on a site formerly used for coach parking. Named the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Garden, this opened in March 2012 and incorporates a number of works of art: a memorial to John Donne, poet and former Dean of St Paul's, by artist Nigel Boonham, and a highly-reflective stainless steel sculpture, Amicale (2007) by Paul Mount. A second, related sculpture by Mount is installed across the road to the south by Carter Lane Garden. In St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard itself are a number of works, including a moving depiction of Thomas à Becket by Bainbridge Copnall, acquired by the Corporation of London in 1973, and a Memorial to the Londoners killed in World War II bombardments by Richard Kindersley, created in a single block of Irish limestone inscribed with words by Sir Edward Marsh. Located by the north portico of the Cathedral, it was unveiled by HM the Queen Mother on 11 May 1999.

There is no room to list all the sculptures to be found in the City's churchyards and gardens, but one stands out in my mind for special mention. Fen Court, the site of the churchyard of St Gabriel Fenchurch, was laid out in 1960 as a paved open space, retaining a number of 18th-century chest tombs. When it was re- landscaped with new paving, seating and planting, a sculptural feature was unveiled on 4 September 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Entitled Gilt of Cain, the work commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 and is by sculptor Michael Visocchi who collaborated with Lemn Sissay, whose eponymous poem is engraved into the granite columns and stepped podium that comprise the sculpture. The form of the work is evocative of a pulpit or slave auctioneer's podium, the columns suggesting stems of sugar cane, a crowd or a congregation. The project arose at the instigation of the parish of St Mary Woolnoth and Black British Heritage and was commissioned by the City of London in partnership with the British Land company. St Mary Woolnoth had a historical connection with the abolitionist movement and the rector from 1780-1807 was Revd John Newton, slave-trader turned preacher, who influenced and worked alongside William Wilberforce.

Information about all these City sculptures and more can be found in London Gardens Online

Altar at St Botolph, Bishopsgate

Three Printers
Three Printers in Goldsmiths' Garden

Becket in St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard

Gilt of Cain
Gilt of Cain in Fen Court