Sculpture in the City is an award-winning annual urban sculpture park in London’s Square Mile, inaugurated in 2011. Every summer, the City of London, in partnership with local businesses, unveils a new selection of artworks by renowned international artists and exciting emerging artists alike in an array of public spaces.
Each edition harnesses the Square Mile’s urban cluster as a rotating gallery. Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror captured St Helen’s Square and flipped the busy thoroughfare upside down. Ai Weiwei’s Forever blazed a trail for freedom and movement, with over a thousand bicycles towering up in front of the Gherkin. Marina Abramović’s siren call was the simple sound of birdsong issuing from the Tree at 99 Bishopsgate. The historic Victorian Leadenhall Market was emblazoned with Shaun C. Badham’s I’M STAYING neon sculpture, while Aldgate Square was lit up by Jyll Bradley’s Dutch/Light (for Agneta Block), an indeterminate liquid flag. Audiences were mesmerised by Jennifer Steinkamp’s video-installation Botanic at Fen Court, looking up at a bucolic firmament with its flowers ever-shifting, harmonising, and colliding.
Sculpture in the City continues to flourish. The first edition (2011-2012) saw four artists each exhibiting a work in as many locations, while the ninth edition (2019-2020) featured 21 works by 19 artists in 21 locations, and included more emerging artists and experimental media than ever before. So far, Sculpture in the City has exhibited 113 artworks by 94 artists from 29 countries.
The Square Mile’s iconic architecture is enriched and confronted by sculptural works which animate this global centre of commerce and establish the City as a destination for international culture in its own right. Sculpture in the City is a prime example of a sustainable public art programme that evolves over time, reacting to and intervening in the ever-changing architectural landscape of the City. Showcasing some of the most innovative works of contemporary art for all to see 24/7, some 400,000 visitors experience the project every year.
Sculpture in the City does not stop there. Since 2012, our annual education programme has engaged students from local schools with art, architecture and the City through the Sculpture in the City project (read more below). In collaboration with Musicity, we have commissioned music inspired by the architecture of the project sites, which can be experienced in situ (read more below). In 2018 and 2019, Sculpture in the City was the Associate Programme Partner for the first two editions of [Nocturnal Creatures], an annual free late-night contemporary art festival, including talks, tours, performances and even silent discos. This satellite activity enlivens the sculptures throughout the year, drawing ever-wider audiences.
History of Sculpture in the City
In November 2010, the City of London commissioned Lacuna to secure a piece of contemporary sculpture to humanise and invigorate the Eastern City Cluster area. Far exceeding the original brief, we installed four major artworks by acclaimed international artists: Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor, Garden Pouf by Franz West (which had never been seen in public before), 3 Men Walking by Julian Opie and Screen with Folded Arms by Kenneth Armitage.
Crucial to this early success was fixing partnerships with three local businesses: Hiscox, British Land and Aviva. This has since expanded to thirteen local business partners and seven patron companies for the ninth edition, as the ambition of the project increases each year. In 2019, Sculpture in the City was delivered by the City of London in partnership with Aon, Aviva, Beaumont, Bloomberg, British Land, Brookfield Properties, CC Land, Hiscox, London & Oriental, Nuveen Real Estate, Tenacity, Tower 42 and 22 Bishopsgate.
Since 2015, the artworks have been selected through an open call managed by Lacuna and shortlisted by the Arts Advisory Group, including Jane Alison, Barbican Art Centre; Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery; Robert Hiscox, Arts Patron; Whitney Hintz, Hiscox Curator; Wendy Fisher, Collector and Philanthropist; Stephen Feeke, Curator and Writer; Andrea Schlieker, Tate Britain and Gavin Turk, an artist who exhibited in Sculpture in the City in 2017. The Arts Advisory Group ensures that the selection of artworks in each edition are of high artistic and curatorial value. For their invaluable work in specialist installation, structural engineering and all-too-critical communications, the project is indebted to MTEC, Price & Myers and Brunswick Arts respectively.
Musicity x Sculpture in the City
Alongside the eighth edition in 2018, Lacuna formed a brand-new music partnership, Musicity x Sculpture in the City. The programme comprises original compositions inspired by the architecture of the Sculpture in the City sites and can be enjoyed in the very places they speak to. Ranging from modern classical to electronic soundscapes, these specially commissioned and site-specific compositions have included work by Sarathy Korwar, Midori Komachi, Bambooman and Angele David-Guillou. Musicity x Sculpture in the City launched on 21st July 2018 during the first edition of Nocturnal Creatures.
To celebrate the addition of a new site for the ninth edition of Sculpture in the City at 70 St Mary Axe, the legendary DJ Mixmaster Morris created a new track for the programme, which he unveiled during the second edition of Nocturnal Creatures in July 2019.
All 11 tracks are live for visitors to enjoy as part of the programme’s legacy – available 24/7, simply by using headphones and connecting a handheld device to the Musicity webapp.
From the project’s inception, we have engaged local communities. Our events series allows young people and families to encounter art and architecture, and by extension the City of London. The educational and community programme has evolved over the years and is now delivered in partnership with Urban Learners.
Since 2012, 1,730 students have attended a total of 227 workshops. These workshops see artists, architects and partner company volunteers offering their expertise and experience. Students are encouraged to explore the project’s public spaces and architecture, before and after the sculptures are installed, and respond creatively. A highlight of the 2019 education programme was a tour of Bloomberg’s impressive new European HQ building in London by Michael Jones, the Lead Architect of the project from Foster + Partners.
This extensive educational programme benefits students aged 10-14 from neighbouring borough schools. The cohort of these schools includes students from under-privileged communities, many of whom have never visited the City before and are unlikely to consider art or the built environment as career pathways. Therefore, the programme is vital in enabling students to discover the City and learn about the value of public art and their own engagement with it.
Having these works dotted around the Square Mile is enormously positive for the people who work or live here. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they are modern art lovers, appreciates being in a changing environment. The sculptures make us look and think differently about the everyday world around us, which is very stimulating. Also being exposed to art is proven to improve our sense of wellbeing and creativity. So hopefully we will feel, as well as work better.
Robert Read, Hiscox Head of Art and Private Clients