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Walking with The Snowman: Follow the festive art trail at London Bridge City

Antony Gormley review: Artist pushes the boundaries of the Royal Academy with his huge sculptures

Matrix III is one of the highlights of the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

Antony Gormley is one of Britain’s most famous living artists, with his sculpture career dating back 45 years. He tends to focus his creations on the human form – usually his own – with his latest exhibition attempting to raise our awareness of the bodies we inhabit.

'Body' and 'Fruit' by Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy of Arts

‘Body’ and ‘Fruit’

The artist’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts has taken over 13 rooms, with Gormley molding and adapting the Georgian rooms to fit his large-scale installations. The Academy has had to get some of the rooms water-proofed and reinforced to support the weight of some of the pieces. The exhibition features work throughout the decades, including his rarely-seen, early pieces from the 1970s. Also on display are many of his sketchbooks so you can see the progression from idea to fruition as a physical sculpture.

Before even entering Burlington House, you could be forgiven for nearly tripping over the first Gormley piece – ‘Iron Baby’ (1999) – in the courtyard. The sculpture is a newborn baby curled up in a ball, apparently inspired by the artist’s daughter. A contrasting piece – the strength of its iron with the vulnerability we usually associated with newborns.

From the beginning of the exhibition, Gormley’s presence is everywhere. ‘Slabworks’ is a series of metal figures that many would associate with the artist due to the prominence of similar pieces across the country. The shapes lie, stand and sit in various directions and contortions. Nearby is ‘Mother’s Pride’, a recent recreation of an old piece made out of white bread. A man’s (presumably Gormley’s) silhouette has been eaten out of the bread, with the natural expiration of the material displaying an evident reason why it had to be recreated for this year’s exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Frieze Sculpture 2019: Step into Regent’s Park outdoor gallery of contemporary art

‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’ comes to the Fourth Plinth

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The latest commission for the Fourth Plinth is The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist

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This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since 1998

Trafalgar Square has been given a new piece of art amongst its fountains, lions and statues following the unveiling of the latest Fourth Plinth commission. Succeeding David Shrigley’s divisive Really Good, the latest piece is a recreation of a lost ancient artefact.

Michael Rakowitz’s artwork The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is a piece from his long-term project to recreate 7,000 objects that have been lost forever. This particular sculpture is a recreation of the Lamassu, which had guarded the Nergal Gate of Nineveh (near Mosul, Iraq). Created around 700BC, it was destroyed by ISIS in 2015, along with many other ancient artefacts and historical sites. The Lamassu is a deity featuring a human head with the body of a winged bull. Rakowitz has chosen to make his sculpture from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, a once thriving industry which was ravaged by the conflicts of the region. On the fountain facing side of the piece, an inscription in Cuneiform reads: ‘Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, had the inner and outer wall of Ninevah built anew and raised as high as mountains.’

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The piece is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans

This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since the programme started in 1998. The plinth was designed as one of four by architect Sir Charles Barry when he laid out Trafalgar Square in the 1840s. It was originally scheduled to showcase an equestrian statue of King William IV, but the plan was never realised due to austerity cuts. After 150 years of remaining empty, the Fourth Plinth programme was finally conceived in the 1990s as a platform for temporary artworks.

  • The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist will remain in situ until March 2020. At the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
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One side of the sculpture features an inscription in Cuneiform

For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.

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Sculpture In The City 2017/2018: Contemporary art comes to the Square Mile

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

Photo Friday: Tribute to our ‘special relationship’ with Allies on Bond Street

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‘Allies’, a bronze sculpture by Lawrence Holofcener

Sat at the junction where Old and New Bond Street meet is a sculpture of a more recent piece of history compared to the many 18th and 19th century monuments dotted around Westminster. In contrast to the equestrian or military poses of many depictions of famous British leaders, royals and soldiers, this particular tribute is rather more informal.

Seated on a bench outside 16 New Bond Street is ‘Allies’, two bronzes statues of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) sitting talking. The piece, created by sculptor Lawrence Holofcener, was a gift to the City of Westminster from the shops and businesses of the Bond Street Association. It was unveiled by the late Princess Margaret in May 1995 to commemorate 50 years of peace.

  • The ‘Allies’ sculpture is situated outside 16 New Bond Street, Mayfair, W1S 3SU. Nearest station: Green Park or Oxford Circus.

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Don’t look a Gift Horse in the mouth: The new sculpture on the Fourth Plinth

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Gift Horse, by German artist Hans Haacke, was unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in March 2015

Trafalgar Square is a pretty dramatic setting, bordered by listed, historical buildings with Nelson’s Column as its centrepiece. Standing out amongst the predominantly Victorian architecture is the Fourth Plinth in the north-west corner of the Square – containing changing contemporary art pieces. When the Square was laid out in the 1840s by architect Sir Charles Barry, two plinths on the north wall were created. It was only in the 1850s two free-standing plinths were erected on the south of the fountains creating a grand total of four. The plan was for notable figures to be placed on all plinths, but only three were filled. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century and until present day, three of the plinths hosted 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.

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The creation is a nod to the original plan to have an equestrian statue of King William IV on the fourth plinth

It’s only been since 1998 that the Fourth Plinth has been occupied. It was decided it would host temporary contemporary artworks. Over the years, it has been the base of many sculptures, including Marc Quinn’s one of Alison Lapper, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle and Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Powerless Structures, Fig. 101.

In March 2015, the 10th artwork to occupy the plinth was unveiled to the public, replacing the previous Hahn/Cock which had been there since July 2013. The new ‘inhabitant’ is Gift Horse by German artist Hans Haacke. The sculpture is a skeleton of a horse with an electronic bow featuring share prices from the Stock Exchange. The art is a nod to the original Victorian plan for an equestrian statue that was due to stand on the fourth plinth, but didn’t make it due to funding. Haacke admitted he was inspired by 18th century painter George Stubbs’ The Anatomy Of The Horse. Gift Horse is due to remain on the Fourth Plinth until September 2016, when it will be replaced by David Shrigley’s bronze hand Really Good.

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The Fourth Plinth stands in front of the National Gallery and overlooks London’s iconic Trafalgar Square

  • Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.

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Nice to see ewe: Follow the Shaun In The City trails around London

The South Bank Lion: A historic big cat looking a bit off colour…

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The South Bank Lion has moved around a bit since he was sculpted in 1837

The South Bank is one of London’s most heavily tourist-populated areas, thanks to the London Eye, London Dungeon, Aquarium and view of the Houses of Parliament to name but a few. Those who have lived in London a long time, know this is a relatively recent phenomena, having really kicked off with the opening of the London Eye by the southern shores of the Thames in 2000. Prior to the 1950s – when the Royal Festival Hall was built for the Festival Of Britain – the South Bank was a place of industry, which has long since gone.

Standing on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just by the pedestrianised steps leading down to the front of County Hall, is a proud-looking stone lion. Tens of thousands of people – predominantly tourists – walk over Westminster Bridge every day to get a selfie of themselves with Big Ben behind or to board the London Eye for a 360 degree vista of the capital and many not even notice him. He stands tall at 12 feet at a width of 13 feet, weighing an impressive 13 tonnes.

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Standing guard: The lion is now located around 400 metres away from his original home in the early 19th century

While the grey-coloured lion looks very comfortable against the backdrop of the similarly coloured County Hall building, his origins weren’t quite so low-key. This sculpture was originally red and belonged to the Red Lion Brewery, an imposing great building on the site of the Royal Festival Hall. The brewery was designed by Francis Edwards and built between 1836–7 for owner James Goding. The site spread south of Belvedere Road after Goding acquired land for stables and warehouses as his beer empire expanded. (For an image of the Red Lion Brewery, click here). Our current lion was one of two red ones which stood at the brewery – a great emblem for the beer brand. What makes these lions special is they are made of Coade stone – a type of stoneware made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named after its creator Eleanor Coade (1733-1821). Coade’s Artificial Stone Company stood not far away on Westminster Bridge Road.

The red lions stood on the site for nearly 100 years until the brewery was damaged in a fire in 1931. The semi-ruined building was briefly used as storage for waste paper before lying derelict for years before it was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall. Apparently King George VI (1895-1952) rather liked our lion and encouraged city planners to find a new home for him. The lion was then moved to Station Approach outside Waterloo railway station, but that home didn’t last long either when the station was later expanded.

Finally, in 1966, the lion was restored to his original Coade Stone grey colour and placed on a plinth outside County Hall, where he remains today. During his final move, the name of the noted sculptor William F Woodington (1806-1893) was found engraved on one of the paws, along with the date 24 May 1837. He is now Grade II-listed by English Heritage. As for his twin, the other lion is now painted gold and stands at the Rowland Hill Memorial Gate at Twickenham Stadium 12 miles away. (For a photo of the Twickenham lion, click here).

  • The South Bank Lion stands on the south east corner of Westminster Bridge. Nearest station: Waterloo or Westminster.

For the history of the nearby 19th century swan benches and the Albert Embankment, click here.

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

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