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 contemporary sculptures across the square mile. From the 30th 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. Want to learn more, scan the works with the Smartify app and you’ll get the fascinating stories behind all the artworks.

To whet your appetite, here are three of Smartify’s favourite artworks from the exhibition:

The Tree, Marina Abramovic (1972)

This work is just as cool as you would expect from performance artist Marina Abramovic. It’s a soundscape rather than a physical sculpture and so the art is truly immersive. A number of speakers sing out with the sound of birds chirping. This insistent recording perhaps references the recorded pronouncements of the communist leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz ‘Tito’. Abramović’s parents fought with Tito and eventually served under him, as military officers in the Communist government.

Crocodylius Philodendrus, Nancy Rubins (2016–17)

There’s no better way to describe Rubins’ work than a mammoth and monumental menagerie. It’s a collection of various different sculptures of wild animals melded together into a wild and wonderful chimera. It towers above you, over four metres tall and more than five metres wide. See how many different animals you can count inside it!

Numen (Shifting Votive) One, Two and Three, Thomas J. Price (2016)

These three statues, stand powerfully and solemnly together and are important change in our visual environment. As we know, the streets of London are filled with statues of victorious, warlike, white men above us on plinths. Men from a time when social attitudes were very different and much more racialized and divisive. And although these attitudes have been rejected by today’s society, these old white men still form in the background of our everyday lives. Price’s sculptures begin to change this convention.

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.

We’ve told you our favourites — but why don’t you show us yours! Visit the City on the 30th of June for a wonderful celebration of sculpture. City Sculpture Fest runs all day and we’re running drawing workshops with the artist Julie Leonard. You can sketch you favourite work and share on the app!