It was an unseasonably sunny winter day in February, so I took on a self-guided walking tour of public art around London courtesy my new book, “Walks of Art”, compiled by Frances Barry and illustrated by Simon Harmer. “Walks of Art” includes 10 hour-long (or so) tours of permanently installed artworks situated east to west from Liverpool Street to Knightsbridge, and north to south from Kings Cross to Pimlico. On-going.
Art is everywhere, if you know where to look
What’s a girl to do with some free time and a sunny day in London? After dropping into Tate Modern for a quick look around, a little green book in their riverside shop caught my eye, “Walks of Art” which lists 10 self-guided walking tours of public art around central London. Put together by Frances Barry and illustrated by Simon Harmer, a sturdy card accordion-style book opens in one long guide, each 2-page spread showing a simple colour-coded line-drawn map with around 10-12 “stops”. Tate Modern is the last stop of the “Ochre” tour, so I headed off to the starting point around Monument to walk my way back, aiming to take the “Tate to Tate” river bus from Bankside to Millbank pier in time to check the scene at Tate Britain.
Before I’d even gotten started, though, there was a quick detour to meet the mister for a cuppa coffee, and I found Antony Gormley’s rusty sentinel on the corner of Shoe Lane, a dashing monument to Prince Albert, Christopher Wren’s church of St Andrew at Holborn, and a secret courtyard at Waterhouse Square.
Coffee at the ready, the first step of the tour begins with Simon Patterson’s “Time and Tide” beneath my feet…
and really takes off with Christopher Le Brun’s “City Wing”, tucked in between two buildings on Old Broad Street.
From start to finish, I’d say it took more more than the suggested hour to complete the tour, but then again, I wasn’t in a hurry, taking pictures, of course, and stopping to notice other things not even on my list. Let’s say it takes two hours at more of an amble than a determined walking pace, along with any pauses needed to help a pair of out-of-towners find their way to St Paul’s from around Bank.
Thanks to artist Gavin Turk, the shopping centre at One New Change seems fixed to the ground by a single nail, two storeys high.
Atop of One New Change, it almost feels like summer; the public roof terrace displays a quartet of Portland stone tributes to St George by Charles Wheeler, a mosaic by Boris Antrep, a fab view of St Paul’s cathedral, and if you like, taken with a drink in your hand.
Maybe it’s not quite summer enough for that Pimm’s and lemonade, so with the remaining daylight, I headed back down to ground level and east to Paternoster Square. I found Elisabeth Frink’s shepherd and his wooly trio easily enough…
…but not all of the works in “Walks of Art” are well-described, nor is the clue always in the name. I hunted around for ages looking for Thomas Heatherwick’s “Paternoster Vents”, described only as “wing-like sculptures…developed by folding a sheet of A4 paper”. Wings…right…I’m in the middle of Paternoster Square, am I looking for something white? Small? Foldey-looking? Professor Google always knows the answer, and directed me to another courtyard down an alley away from Paternoster Square, not really that clear from the map given in the book.
Number 9 on my tour, a bronze by Michael Ayrton, didn’t seem to exist or had been moved due to building works, so I took a picture of some shiny round things instead.
Also not on the list was St Paul’s Cathedral nor Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box designed in 1924, so here they are together:
Last on my art jaunt is Anthony Caro’s “HSBC Gates”, abstract steel sculptures, which, depending on your height, are large enough to walk though on the way towards Tate Modern.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable City circuit, and I’m looking forward to checking out another part of town next time the sun shines!
Recommended for: families; art-lovers; tourists; Londoners who’ve forgotten how beautiful their city is in Spring.
Related links and stories about art walks
- Explore Sculpture in the City, London’s yearly public art programme in the Square Mile – on kelise72.com
- “A lovely walk through modern and post-modern public art in Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air – Paris” – on kelise72.com – 8 July 2016
- Buy “Walks of Art” compiled by Frances Barry and illustrated by Simon Harmer – London: Tate Publishing, 2015 (Amazon.co.uk) – includes 10 route maps of “London’s best public modern art”, with address and description for each of the artworks