This month we’ve been excited to see public art featuring centre stage as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Published date: 27 June 2022
Both outside Buckingham Palace with Heatherwick Studios’ Tree of Trees and across the capital with a series of commissions by nine different artists at stations along the newly opened Elizabeth line. Also in London, with a theme of celebrating legacy, it’s been great to see two new commissions unveiled to honour the Windrush Generation that have been getting some positive and emotional responses.
In case you missed it, urban designer Thomas Heatherwick’s tree sculpture was a 21-metre-high steel installation filled with 350 saplings in aluminium pots embossed with Her Majesty’s cypher. Heatherwick’s design seems to have divided opinion amongst the art critics. However, since the Jubilee weekend, the installation has been taken down with trees being gifted to selected community groups and organisations for planting in October as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative. This will reflect the significant contribution that the Queen has made through her 70 years of service in public life to date.
We were reminded of our first ever public art project Chatham Vines by artist John Newling, where the community were invited into St John’s Church to take a vine for their own gardens or allotments once the grapes had been harvested.
The use of living materials and the theme of the natural world, struck a chord, especially given our recent reflections on other projects we’ve been engaged with, where artists have made this part of their practice too.
It’s interesting to see the public artworks that feature in the stations on the new Transport for London (TFL) Elizabeth Line, and worth checking out the overview in this Railway Technology article
There is more to learn more about the details involved in this ambitious commissioning process on the Crossrail website. In fact, in 2018 we visited the Whitechapel Gallery to see Art Capital: Art for the Elizabeth Line and were impressed to see the range of artists and artwork being commissioned. We were really pleased to hear Crossrail say: ‘This is not just art as a bolt-on or final embellishment: in each case, the work was developed by a leading contemporary artist alongside the design of the building and in close collaboration with Crossrail engineers and architects. In many cases, they also directly reference a station’s location within the city, as well as the communities that it will be serving.’
We resonated with the comments from Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, TfL’s public art programme that oversees the commissioning and installation of art on the TfL network, where she talks about how: ‘Art has such a big role to play… in terms of how people feel a connection, how they feel enriched as they’re walking through stations. This will be the biggest interaction many people will have with artwork in their entire life, you know. They might be coming to the station every day for years. I think it’s so important that we bring art into these spaces, allowing a repeated, enriching, exciting relationship with art, which I think really changes how people feel as they’re travelling about. That’s the value of public art.”
Looking over to Waterloo station, it has been heartening to read how the Basil Watson Windrush sculpture has been moving people to tears and inspiring a raft of selfies as eager visitors choose to show their admiration for past generations by photographic association and sharing on social media. Meanwhile, Thomas J Price’s Warm Shores over in Hackney has been hailed as a ‘celebration … not a momument’ by the artist himself, who has also been closely involved with the local community in developing the artwork.
Have you taken the new Elizabeth Line yet? What’s your experience of public art on the tube and train network or while travelling as a passenger? As always, we love to hear your thoughts and your recent adventures with public art.
#jubileetrees #elizabethline #windrush