Blog Archives

Exploring Dulwich’s street art with the Dulwich Festival

Hang with the art flock at the Paper Aviary in St James

Paper Aviary

The Paper Aviary is a new exhibition in St James’s Market Pavilion

A new public art exhibition has just opened in London’s St James. Taking inspiration from the Royal aviary which used to stand in St James’s Park, is ‘The Paper Aviary’ in a new permanent art space.

Paper Aviary

The exhibition is accompanied by a soundtrack of birdsong

Back in the 17th century, the park was home to King Charles II’s (1630-1685) collection of exotic birds. The King had redesigned the park after being inspired by the French royals’manicured grounds while he was exiled in France during the English Civil War. The aviary is mentioned in the diaries of both Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. In addition to the aviary, the Pelicans were introduced to the park at the same time, where they continue to live today. Although the aviary is long gone, a reference to it lives on in nearby Birdcage Walk.

‘The Paper Aviary’ is a new installation by design and brand specialists dn&co with Argentine studio Guardabosques. The likes of bright green Sulawesi hanging parrots, red and yellow lories and lorikeets, and cassowaries have been brought to life in the paper aviary. Each bird has been handcrafted with plumage and patterns inspired by fashion houses and craftspeople of St James. Represented are the houndstooth, checks and polka dots from the fabric patterns of John Smedley, Turnbull & Asser and Aquascutum. As visitors step into the St James Market Pavilion, they will be greeted by a curated soundtrack of birdsong to accompany the exhibition.

  • The Paper Aviary is open from 15 February – May 2017 at St James’s Market Pavilion, Regent Street, St James, SW1Y 4AH. Free entry. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park. For more information, visit the St James London website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in March, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Winter Lights festival 2017: Angels, giant eggs and a lot of neon

Bringing contemporary art to the Big Smoke: Sculpture In The City 2016/2017

Back to their Victorian glory: The restored sphinxes of Crystal Palace Park

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the restored red sphinxes in Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park is a South London gem. Although well-known by locals, many people living in the other parts of the capital haven’t made the journey… and they’re missing out! As a born and bred South Londoner, I’ve been visiting the park since I was little and continue to today. The park was established in 1854 as a permanent base for the Crystal Palace – built for the Great Exhibition three years earlier. The Crystal Palace – a huge iron and glass structure designed by architect Sir Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) – had already wowed visitors in Hyde Park, and would have a long-term home at the expansive Sydenham grounds with views across Croydon and Surrey. Together with the surrounding land, the park became a Victorian pleasure ground. Two train stations serviced the park, while an Italian garden and fountains, a maze, an English landscape garden and dinosaur exhibition were opened.

The Crystal Palace stood for decades until it was destroyed by a fire in November 1936. Today, the only remainder of the Palace is its Victorian terraces, ruins of its water towers and the surviving six of the original collection of 12 sphinxes. The sculptures of the half-man, half-lions flank flights of steps on the Upper Terrace and feature cartouches and hieroglyphs on their bodies and base. The sphinxes were based on the red granite sphinx at the Louvre museum in Paris – from the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenemhat II (1929-1895 BC). They are likely to have been the idea of architect Owen Jones (1809-1874), who was partially responsible for the decoration and layout of the Palace in its new environment and designed the Egyptian, Greek and Roman courts within the exhibition.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the sphinxes before and after restoration

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of the Crystal Palace sphinxes looking south over the terraces and park in 2015 – before restoration

For decades, the sphinxes were painted red to match their original inspiration across the channel in France. Tests have shown the re-painting stopped in the 1900s when the popularity in the Palace had declined. For most of the 20th century, the sphinxes were their base grey colour. Understandably, they’ve taken quite a battering from the element over the years and were cracking, ending up on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.

In 2016, the Grade II-listed sphinxes were restored as part of a £2.4million project funded by the Mayor of London, Historic England and Bromley Council. The project also includes the restoration of the terrace steps, the famous Victorian dinosaur sculptures and a new café. The work included repairs to the holes and cracks and repainting to their original Victorian colour of red with a mineral paint to help conserve them longer. I’ve loved the sphinxes since I was a child and having witnessed their deterioration over the years, I was thrilled to see them restored to their former glory. I hope they continue to survey the park for another 150 years and beyond.

  • The Sphinxes are located by the terraces on the northern-western part of Crystal Palace Park (access from Crystal Palace Parade, Upper Norwood, SE19. Nearest station: Crystal Palace. For information about visiting the park, check out Bromley Council’s website.
© Paul Furst/Wikimedia Commons

Some of the sphinxes (circled) outside the Crystal Palace in 1854
© Paul Furst/Wikimedia Commons


To find out about another set of London sphinxes on the Victoria Embankment, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

David Shrigley’s Really Good comes to the Fourth Plinth

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Really Good by David Shrigley on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

The latest artwork has been unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square and it’s already dividing critics and the public. Really Good, a giant hand in a thumbs up gesture by artist David Shrigley, was unveiled on 29 September 2016 and will remain there for the foreseeable future. The new sculpture replaces Gift Horse by German artist Hans Haacke, which had been in situ since March 2015.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Really Good is the 11th commission for the Fourth Plinth

After Trafalgar Square was laid out in the 1840s, three of the four plinths were – and still are – occupied by sculptures of King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. The Fourth Plinth was originally designed to hold an equestrian statue of King William IV, but plans were dropped due to lack of funds. After decades of being empty, a new public art project was conceived in 1998 for the Fourth Plinth to house a rotation of temporary artworks.

Brighton-based artist Shrigley has created a seven-metre high, bronze hand with a disproportionately large thumb. This new sculpture has been hailed as a beacon for positive thinking during a somewhat tricky year, with the Brexit vote dividing the British public. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote: ‘This is a weird and bizarre sculpture whose stark silhouette against the London sky is not affirmative or reassuring but aggressive.’ Meanwhile, The Telegraph’s Mark Hudson said: ‘If the dark bronze skilfully echoes the patina of the older statues, blending the sculpture into its grandiose setting, the way the ball of the hand, the clenched fingers and thumb relate to each other is uncomfortable and patently unrealistic.’ Personally, I’m still undecided what I think about it and may have to see it a few more times before I decide if I like it or hate it. It’s certainly prompted a lot more debate among Londoners than recent commissions.

  • Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tribute to Alan Turing unveiled in Paddington

Message From The Unseen World

Message From The Unseen World, an installation in tribute to Alan Turing

Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) was one the most important figures in the 20th century. He played a pivotal role breaking the Nazi enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II, which is widely believed shortened the war by several years.

To celebrate his outstanding contribution to the country and computer science, a new artistic tribute has been unveiled in Paddington, where Turing was born. Entitled ‘Message from the Unseen World’, the piece spans the width of Bishop’s Bridge Road at Paddington Central.

The installation features aluminium panels featuring holes and LEDs displaying extracts of Turing’s book Computing Machinery and Intelligence and verses by East London poet Nick Drake, imagining Turing speaking about his life from a posthumous view. The piece is presented by British Land, was curated by Futurecity and devised by United Visual Artists.

Matt Clark from United Visual Artists said: ‘The artwork itself is a continuously evolving machine; an “engine” that uses basic principles of artificial intelligence to endlessly interpret Drake’s work. The result is a literal in memoriam for Turing, a dynamic artwork that reminds us of the complementary relationship between people and technology, how it has changed from the 20th to early 21st Century, and how this relationship will continue to develop.’

Nick Drake said: ‘To take poetry and make it a collaborative project has been hugely exciting. We are not simply presenting the poem, rather we are exploring the idea of a machine thinking poetically – or perhaps more accurately – appearing to write like a poet while thinking like a machine, which goes to the very heart of Turing’s explorations on artificial intelligence. I hope the piece makes people more aware of Turing’s remarkable life and ground-breaking work.’

  • ‘Message from the Unseen World’ is near the canalside entrance to Paddington Underground Station under Bishops Bridge Road, at the entrance to the Paddington Central campus, W2. Nearest station: Paddington.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Serpentine Pavilion 2016: A pyramid of bulging bricks by Bjarke Ingels

Meeting Of Styles Festival: London’s largest street art festival returns this Bank Holiday weekend

Meeting Of Styles UKThis bank holiday weekend, the capital’s largest graffiti and street art festival is returning to London. Taking over the Nomadic Community Gardens in Shoreditch, the Meeting Of Styles festival will feature three days of live street art painting, music, food and drinking.

A garden oasis and the walls leading to it from Brick Lane will be transformed with over 50 artists collaborating. Budding street artists – young and old – will also have the chance to learn some skills at workshops. Meanwhile, there’ll be plenty of music from the likes of Ghosttown & the lyrical genius Dabbla, DJs Maj Duckworth, Sugai & Super Scratch Sunday, Blabbamouf and Trackside Burners.

Providing the refreshments will be a Rockwell House pop-up bar. The in-garden Roving Café will be serving hot food, cakes and fresh coffee, while the Dry Rub Club will be grilling and marinading on the BBQ.

Also on site will be a mini market of stalls selling art and clothing, including Meeting Of Styles merchandise and EndOfTheLine apparel. By Monday, the Nomadic Community Gardens will be hosting their monthly party with the surrounding walls now complete.

  • Meeting Of Styles takes place from 27-29 May 2016 at the Nomadic Community Gardens, Brick Lane, 1 Fleet Street Hill, Shoreditch, E2 6EE. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit the Meeting Of Styles website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in May, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Mirror, mirror, on Covent Garden’s walls: The new Reflect London installation

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The north-east corner of Covent Garden market hall has been wrapped in an art installation Reflect London

Covent Garden is one of the most popular parts of London, a draw to tourists and city-dwellers alike for its shops, restaurants, entertainers and history. The 19th century market hall has seen many businesses come and go and is ever evolving with the changing demands from consumers. Following the opening of The Ivy Market Grill in late 2014, another fine dining establishment is coming to Covent Garden next year – a second London branch of SushiSamba. Taking over the former Opera Terrace restaurant, work has begun on transforming the north-east corner of the neo-classical market hall into the capital’s latest dining establishment.

While Londoners are used to seeing unsightly scaffolding during the frequent building works around town, the renovation for SushiSamba is going to be rather more gentle on the eyes. Launched this month is a new installation entitled Reflect London, which will conceal building works on the Grade II-listed building. The columns and façade of the building have been wrapped in 32,000 square feet of mirrored surfaces, giving a new perspective of the building and its surrounding environment.

  • Reflect London will be on at Covent Garden from April 2016 for an estimated eight months. Covent Garden Piazza, Covent Garden, WC2E. Nearest station: Covent Garden, Holborn or Leicester Square.

For a review of the original London branch of SushiSamba in the Heron Tower, click here.

For a guide to what else is on in London right now, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin