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London Calling

It’s always a good time to be in a big city whether it’s Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata or London. Especially London where there is something happening all the time. For culture addicts it’s a non-stop trip. London satisfies every interest while triggering new ones.

I’m not sure who loves sculpture from the cradle except for sculptors. The famous, classical ones, sure – I know and love those, my knowledge having a bit of a weekly quiz question air about it – Rodin’s Thinker, David, the Pieta and it trails off. And it’s wholly my loss. As an art form sculptor connects you to your surroundings in an intimate way, makes you question an established reality, asks you if this is the only possibility.

For sculptor newbies there’s always the superb Hans Cristian Andersen statue sitting on a bench with a little duckling at his feet in Central Park, NYC, the duck family sculpture in Boston called Make Way for the Ducklings sculpted by Nancy Schön – a lot of duck references – that has delighted visitors to the Boston public garden for decades. The Lincoln statue in Washington is a true monument moment as are haunting statues of soldiers of the Korean War Memorial.

Sculpture is a lot more about soldiers and ducks. Back to London where this piece began. Sculpture in the City is in its 9th edition. Scattered all around the Square Mile. Exciting, thought provoking, curious, poignant pieces appear in London’s famous business district – Leadenhall Street, near iconic architectural landmarks like the cheese grater and the gherkin and make you pause and contemplate the nature of our existence through unusual filters. Londoners have now begun to look forward to this annual burst of sculpture. Some works reappear, having become a part of the city’s iconography. Like the I’m Staying artwork by Bristol based artist Shaun Badham who places this simple statement that becomes so moving just because of where it is positioned – now over the glamorous Leadenhall market making you contemplate everything from loneliness and alienation to homelessness and perhaps also just a simple, childlike desire for things to stay the same.

Another powerful, thought provoking textual installation is Nathan Coley’s ‘The Same for Everyone’. These are “found” phrases which he places in new contexts creating a new engagement with the environment, dismantling a culturally conditioned response. This phrase was first seen on a hand-painted sign in Denmark. Here it becomes either an ideal, a protest or a provocative statement.

My favorite is Botanic by Jennifer Steinkamp who works with 3-D animation and new media. Here she has created a moving, colliding, altogether mesmeric floral wonderland transforming an originally educational context.The flowers break apart into twigs and seeds and leaves. Every flower is labeled with its botanical name. But the end result is a wonderful fusion of technology and nature.

Some of the names of the pieces are as striking as the pieces themselves: Salvatore Arancio’s It Was Only a Matter of Time Before We Found the Pyramid and Forced It Open. A modern day version of the ancient urge to create totems.

There are 16 more such arresting pieces, stopping commuters on their tracks, delighting visitors, initiating a conversation between person and place. If you’re not in London see these weird and wonderful artworks here https://www.sculptureinthecity.org.uk/

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