It’s easy to forget that egalitarianism is an important tenet of London’s cultural identity. Though we live in a city that’s often frighteningly expensive, culturally at least, the capital is one of the greatest cities in the world when it comes to the open sharing of ideas, creative thinking and thought-provoking artistic experiences.
This summer, one suitably egalitarian artistic highlight is Frieze Scultpure, a free trail of sculptures conceived by world-renowned contemporary artists, held in the verdant surroundings of Regent’s Park. It debuted last year to phenomenal success; five million visitors enjoyed the exhibition across its three month run.
And this year it’s back, with 25 artists and 25 towering sculptures displayed in the English Gardens of Regent’s Park from 4 July to 7 October. The works on display were all selected and placed in the park by Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at the renowned Yorkshire Sculpture Park, who also voices the detailed, free-to-download audio guide that accompanies the exhibition.
It is, according to the Jo Stella-Sawicka, the Artistic Director of Frieze, ‘London’s largest and most diverse display of outdoor art’ – and it’s well worth a visit this weekend, for a wander in the sunshine and some time spent in the company of more than a few world-class artworks .
Bharti Kher, The Intermediary Family (2018)
Larry Achiampong, PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS' ALLIANCE (2018)
Kimsooja, A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir (2014)
Haroon Gunn-Salie, Senzenina (2018)
Rana Begum, No. 814 (2018)
This year, there is a clear outward-looking perspective to the sculptures on show. ‘Artists of different generations and from across the world – including a strong female contribution – have come together to explore multiple concepts; spanning political and architectural ideas, animal forms and material experimentation,’ explains Lilley.
As for the highlights, there’s a 4.8-metre high bronze that depicts a shamanistic portrait of Indian gods by British-born, India-living artist Bharti Kher, which she titled ‘The Intermediary Family’ (2018). Larry Achiampong’s ‘PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE’ (2018), is an Afrofuturistic icon that supports social movement towards unity and equilibrium, and Haroon Gunn-Salie’s ‘Senzenina’ (2018), takes the form of a series of compelling headless statues that represent the striking miners who were shot by police during the first violent encounter at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, on August 16, 2012. Other artists on display include the likes of Tracey Emin, John Baldessari and Barry Flanagan.
This willingness to look outwards and embrace other cultures and experiences is typical of London, and takes this year’s edition of the Frieze Sculpture Park to another level of artistic integrity. As Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A (which aided in the creation of the Park’s family trail), said on the exhibition’s opening night: ‘London’s parks, in contrast to the private gardens of Britain’s great estates, have always been about free and open access for the community. Allowing unlimited access to great sculpture in the heart of London is profoundly important. At a time when our image in the world is complicated and challenging, a celebration of international culture in London is more important than ever.’
So, make the most of the capital’s sharing spirit this weekend, and head down to explore the international sculptures on display. There couldn’t be a better metaphor for London’s unique blend of history, culture and progressive thinking.