Art ‘Outside of the Box’: Sculpture in the City

Just in time for the summer, the City of London is turning the museum inside out. While sometimes a museum can be a welcome respite from the heat, a calm oasis in a sweating city, London so rarely sees the sunshine that it almost seems a shame to be indoors.

To make the most of the summer, the City is exhibiting ten contemporary sculptures across the square mile. From the 27th June, wander through any of the courtyards, forecourts, nooks and crannies of the oldest part of London and you’ll come across them.

Sculpture in the City thinks outside the box, quite literally. It defies the idea that art can only be appreciated in a museum. Exhibiting works outdoors turns that idea, on its head and inside out.

The works exhibited take this idea further. Some of the sculptures engage with traditional art-historical themes but interpret, update or play with them. Themes that traditionally belong to the museum or the annals of Art History have been re-imagined for the outdoor space.

Here are three of Smartify’s favourite:

1. Mark Wallinger — The Black Horse

Wallinger’s Black Horse references the long history of horse sculptures from the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, to the Animals in War memorial in Hyde Park. This sculpture, however, was created with the help of advanced technology, scanning a racehorse, part owned by the artist, named Rivera Red, making it truly a product of the 21st century.

2. Paul McCarthy — Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl

McCarthy’s massive distended and distorted figures of a young girl and boy playing in a garden are a novel take on the motif of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which has peppered Art History since the birth of Western Christianity. Rather than the usual depictions of Adam and Eve thrown out of paradise after their sinful consumption of the apple, these figures remain in the garden. Instead they show us a different way the innocent form can be corrupted. Sweet, naïve children become grossly disfigured.

3. Gavin Turk — Ajar

Ajar is a clear reference to Magritte’s surrealist masterpiece La Victoire, a painting of an open door leading to nowhere. As a sculpture, however, the artwork can be interacted with, delighting both adults and children. It opens up a number of imaginative possibilities. Where does the door open to? What worlds exist behind it?

All of works included in the Sculpture in the City exhibition challenge the idea that the museum or gallery is the only location in which you can appreciate art. They make the entire world around us into a museum. The exhibition is temporary, but The City of London will actually remain jam-packed with public art: statues, memorials, ornamentation, they’re all there; you just need to keep your eyes open.

Sculpture in the City is more than an exhibition; it is a demand that we change our point of view. It asks us to challenge our preconceptions, to think outside the box, and to look a little closer. It forces us to interact with and immerse ourselves in the art that surrounds us on a day-to-day basis, and most of all, to enjoy it.

By Mimi Goodall

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