Thursday, 30 August 2012

Something & Son's pop-up spa Barking Bathhouse

Bet you didn't expect to find an experimental bespoke designed temporary spa and bar in Barking. And it's a bargain.

The sauna

According to the website: 
'Barking Bathhouse is a new experimental social space where we want to encourage people to drop in and enjoy our spa space for just £8 and only £2 for local Barking residents. This gives you access to our traditional wood sauna, ice room, and relaxation rooms.'

The bar

Barking Bathhouse has been produced by Something & Son, a young London-based design practice. The Bathhouse also has a programme of events featuring music, comedy, yoga, artists tours and cabaret.

The project is supported by CREATE, which 'supports, produces and presents creative projects that foster social engagement and new artistic experiences in east London. CREATE delivers an annual summer programme of activity whilst working year-round to ensure that arts and culture are embedded into the long-term legacy and regeneration plans for east London. We bring art out of traditional spaces and into east London's parks, playgrounds, rooftops and tucked-away places. CREATE invites people to explore the city every summer and to jump feet-first into the extraordinary projects and performances they encounter. We commission and produce work by emerging local artists and established international figures, and bring our young residents behind the scenes with a programme of workshops, skills development and job placements.'

Barking Bathhouse is open Thurs - Sun until 16th September. It is funded by the Mayor's Outer London Fund and is being delivered for Barking and Dagenham Council. You can find Barking Bathhouse at: Axe Street, Barking, Essex IG11 7LX 

To find out more visit: 

United Creatives' typographic mural installed in Walsall

Following hot on the heels of several other typographic artworks I've featured recently on this blog, United Creatives, who are based in Manchester, have created a retro-styled temporary typographic mural for Walsall town centre in a space that was previously a 'dull stretch of concrete' on a shopping centre. The artwork, which is 22 metres long, could be succeeded by a permanent ceramic mural.

The artwork includes a series of local facts, and is also functional, providing directions and walking times to local attractions nearby. It was handpainted and made using laser-cut pencils and micro-porous paint.

Meadow project in flower at Everton Park, Liverpool

Rebecca Chesney's beautiful artwork, I'm Blue, You're Yellow, is now in flower on site at Everton Park in Liverpool. It is the outcome of the artist's work with the National Wildflower Centre, which aims to highlight the importance of bees by providing a habitat for them. The planting of the meadows in May was timed for the meadows to be in flower for the opening of Liverpool Biennial 2012 on 14th September when Fritz Haeg's Base Camp will be installed in the park. 

Rebecca's work consists of two acres of meadow, one acre comprised entirely of blue flowers, and one acre entirely of yellow flowers. Both acres are square in shape. The artwork was commissioned by Landlife and will remain for a minimum of three years. The plant species have been chosen to support and attract local populations of bees. This project came as a direct result of Rebecca's research on bees and habitat at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2010.

Specimen sheets of a few of the plant species collected from the meadows will be on show in a cabinet in the Museum of Liverpool (next door to the Walker Art Gallery) for Liverpool Biennial from 14th September.

To find out more about Everton People's Park, of which this project has been a part, visit:

Shezad Dawood film made in Preston premieres there on 4th September

Piercing Brightness production still showing the roof of Preston Bus Station. 
Courtesy of UBIK Productions Ltd

Piercing Brightness is a feature-length science fiction film by artist Shezad Dawood shot on location in, and inspired by, Preston in Lancashire. It will be screened for the first time in the UK at the Odeon in Preston on 4th September at a special red carpet event.

The film features over a hundred local people as extras and shows iconic Preston landmarks such as the Brutalist bus station, Avenham Park and Victorian covered market. Lancashire is an appropriate location as it is apparently the UK hotspot for UFO sightings.

The artist describes the film as a creative hybrid of My Beautiful Laundrette and Roswell. 

Is this a public artwork? Guess it's up for discussion but I like it a lot and hope to see it soon.

To find out more about the project, visit:

Seeds of Change: Floating Ballast Seed Garden project in Bristol

The Floating Ballast Seed Garden by Maria Thereza Alves. 
Image copyright Jon Rowley/

I've been meaning to write about this project for a while but only just got round to it. I thought August was supposed to be quiet?? 

The Floating Ballast Seed Garden is a project by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves and was designed by London-based German designer Gitta Gschwendtner

Between 1680 and the early 1900s ships' ballast (earth, stones and gravel from trade boats from all over the world used to weigh down the vessel as it docked) was offloaded into the river at Bristol. This ballast contained the seeds of plants from wherever the ship had sailed. Maria Thereza Alves discovered that these ballast seeds can lie dormant for hundreds of years, but that by excavating the river bed, it is possible to germinate and grow these seeds into flourishing plants.

The seed garden is populated with a variety of non-native plants, creating a living history of the city’s trade and maritime past.

The project is located on a disused grain barge in Bristol's Floating Harbour (north side) between Bristol Bridge and the Castle Park Water Taxi stops.

It was commissioned by Bristol City Council and the design was developed in close collaboration with the artist, Nick Wray of University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Lucy Empson, landscape architect at Bristol City Council and Arnolfini.

To find out more about the project and associated events happening throughout September and October, visit:

You can download the information leaflet from:

Intriguingly, the Daily Mail picked up the story, and didn't run it as 'Artists waste money on project in Bristol'. See:

New season artworks on the High Line, NY

American Dream by Thomas Bayrle

Two new public artworks by Virginia Overton and Jennifer West are being installed on the High Line in New York as part of their new season which begins on 13th September 2012.

There will also be film and video works by Cinthia Marcelle and Oscar Munoz, an installation by El Anatsui on a building wall, and American Dream, a billboard installation by German artist Thomas Bayrle (image shown above).

Find out more about the artworks here: 

You can download a free copy of the High Line's seasonal art map here:

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

6-storey high artwork installed around Columbus sculpture in New York

Artist Tatzu Nishi (b.1960), who previously built a temporary hotel room around the Queen Victoria monument in Liverpool for the Biennial in 2002 (Villa Victoria), has most recently been working on Discovering Columbus, a major new public work in New York which will open in September and involves a 6-storey high living room being built above Columbus Circle, allowing New Yorkers to get closer to Columbus.

The artwork under construction in August 2012 
(image courtesy 

The artwork has been commissioned by the Public Art Fund and will run 20 September - 18 November 2012. Access to the artwork will be free although visitors will be required to reserve a pass through the Public Art Fund website in advance.

The Public Art Fund say:
'This work will temporarily transform the traditional monument into a contemporary artwork, reshaping visitors’ perceptions of both. And through large, loft-style windows, the work will grant visitors dramatic views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan that can only be seen from Columbus’s perspective. In conjunction with this exhibition, Public Art Fund will also oversee the conservation of the Columbus Monument in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Art & Antiquities.'

To read the source article on Inhabitat, visit:

To read more about the project, visit:

Column 2012

Column, Anthony McCall's major public realm project on Wirral Waters in Liverpool, now has its own website where you can find out more about the project:

Column forms part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and was funded through the Artists Taking the Lead project. 

According to the site the project is due to commence at the end of August 2012 and will be in situ for a year, coinciding with Liverpool's Biennial which opens in mid-September.

The artwork consists of a 'spinning column of cloud that will rise from the surface of East Float, Merseyside. Seen from a distance, ‘Column’ is, essentially, a vertical line drawn in the sky; seen closer up, it is a hollow tube of spinning cloud with a diameter of about twenty metres..... it will disappear and reappear; and what it looks like will shift from hour to hour in response to the changes in the winds, the humidity, the temperature and the position of the sun.'  

Since his earliest work in the seventies, Anthony McCall has worked with mist, projection and light. Although different in scale from his indoor, projected light installations, the artist sees ‘Column’ as being closely related to them:
'The solid light works are shaped columns of light that gain their visibility from being projected through ambient mist. ‘Column’ is the inverse of this; a shaped column of mist that gains its visibility from being projected through ambient light.'

Should public art be rotated or retired?

Only a day left to listen to this debate about public art on Radio 4's Today programme which was broadcast last Thursday, 16th August: (listen 2hrs 45 minutes into the programme).

Andrew Shoben from artists Greyworld and Ian Leith representing the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) were interviewed by James Naughtie. It must have been a slow news week as they gave it 5 minutes' time and Andrew has been making the same argument for ages; he made a programme about the same subject which was broadcast in October 2011, 10 months ago. 

The discussion centred around the recent 'surge' in public art commissioning, and whether this explosion is a bad thing or, in the words of Ian Leith, an 'undocumented Renaissance'. For a start they are rather late in coming to this, seeing as the 'explosion' of public art they discuss has come to a rather abrupt halt given the reduction in large developments (which is how a lot of public art is commissioned) happening in the UK over the last few years. What has become more prevalent over the last ten years or so is inclusive events-based theatricals and temporary works or spectaculars, often those that can involve people (and therefore add ,000s to the Arts Council's numbers of 'engagement' with the arts.) These include projects such as the Sultan's Elephant (2006), Turning the Place Over (2007 - 2011) and the Fourth Plinth programme in London. Is anyone remotely surprised that Mark Wallinger's giant horse for Ebbsfleet, which won the design competition back in 2009, has not materialised yet, given the expected costs are now in the region of £12m? Let's face it, permanent public art commissioning is not as sexy, not as fleeting, and people get bored of it after a while. 

So Andrew talks about the lack of a decommissioning process for public art, with which I agree. Although this is not exactly a new argument (see article on Public Art Online website by Hazel Colquhoun dating back to 2006) it is not true to say that nowhere has a decommissioning process.

Andrew advocates a 'rotate or retire' approach. While retiring can be a good thing, more to the point, why is terrible public art being commissioned in the first place? Retiring suggests that there are tastemakers out there who will decide what will stay and what will go - who will these esteemed persons be? And what right have they to say what is good and what is bad for the nation? Are they like public art doctors, administering to our needs? This may be a slightly facile argument, but just because an artwork is bad, or perhaps unadventurous, it does not in itself mean that the artwork is not loved or cared for - and does that mean it is still bad or worthy of being retired? Some may argue that it is not great art, it is certainly not edgy or exciting from a contemporary art point of view, but Morecambe's local authority has always cared for its cosy, jolly, inoffensive Eric Morecambe statue, which has a regular annual maintenance programme and is a source of local pride that tourists have their photos taken next to. While this is not particularly a case I want to make, I do think there is an element of snobbery about this tastemaking approach of artworks being retired. On the other hand, if there is bad art being commissioned in the first place, why not make sure it is stopped before it can get to this stage? What are the criteria for a 'good' public artwork? Can a statue which raises a smile be good on that basis, even if it is not at the cutting edge in art terms?

As for 'rotating', I think Andrew has missed the point here. This approach might work for artworks plonked in the public realm by well known artists which have no relation to their site (take some pre-existing Tony Craggs being dumped on Exhibition Road by Sculpture at Goodwood Sept-Nov 2012), but this does not work for what I see as contemporary permanent public art, which is genuinely site-specific and responsive to a place. In other words, if you put it anywhere else, it wouldn't have the same resonance as it was specifically designed for the location in which it was sited, with that context in mind. If it's a really great artwork it might have an entirely different resonance, but that would be in relation to its earlier site. Take Dream in St Helen's, an artwork created on the site of an old colliery through working with a group of ex-miners who were initially sceptical. Generally speaking, we have moved on from the commemorative bronze men on horses which could be rotated because their meaning is usually distinct from their location, and therefore the location could be interchangeable. (Well, mostly we have moved on. There are still a few figurative sculptors who make commemorative work in bronze and are pretty vociferous in trying to get it paid for by local trusts who want to recognise a famous person's connection with a place.)

Some artworks which do not specifically relate to or respond to site can still be successful, by forming a contrast with, or challenging, their site or location. The Fourth Plinth project was mentioned by Andrew in the programme, which sites a rotating display of artworks by contemporary artists in the historic environment of Trafalgar Square, alongside a number of commemorative bronzes and indeed Nelson's column. (It is notable that the Fourth Plinth commissions are only rotating in the sense that they are temporarily in Trafalgar Square, and then they go - I'd love to see some of these artworks being later displayed in other places in the UK, like the Artist Rooms programme has done for galleries, sharing the wealth.) But this in itself is quite an interesting case because generally speaking no one displays contemporary artwork on plinths in galleries any more. If they do it is usually older artworks (pre 1970s conceptual art), or else some sort of comment is usually being made by the artist about the placing of artwork on a pedestal. The 'fourth plinth' was left empty after a proposed bronze artwork never materialised. In other words, the context is historic, and the contemporary commissions are a temporary intervention into this place and context, which is heavily laden with the layers of history which proceeded it.

There is a different case to be made if the context in which a piece of public art was sited has changed so much that it no longer relates to the context - where public art has become irrelevant, I'm all for getting rid of, or moving it. Unless it can make sense somewhere else, what's the point in keeping it? Over the years I've had various discussions with people around starting up a bad art graveyard - I still think there's a potential project in there somewhere.

Ian Leith makes the point that there is no national database or audit of public sculpture, something that the PMSA advocates for. He asks why local authorities are reluctant to put information online. I would argue there are several answers to this: a) they don't actually know what they have, and try not to think about it because it usually throws up costs and problems b) publicising where your (currently very valuable) bronzes and assets might be could inspire the wrong kind of (criminal) enthusiasm for art; and c) because local authorities would then need to invest in paying someone to produce an audit. In turn, recognising that there are issues would push the local authority to demonstrate that they advocate an enlightened approach to public art commissioning, which is most likely to lead to them employing an officer to lead on this aspect of work. Local authorities struggle to do work like this because times are tight and generally the voting public don't regard looking after artworks (and commissioning new ones) as a priority in their area, at least when compared to other things such as schooling and healthcare.

The best commissioners of permanent public art are those who care about the quality of art (both intellectually and materially) they are commissioning; are brave enough to put their necks on the line to commission something new and exciting, and say that they think something is good when they see that it is; spend enough on the budget to ensure the work is well made and, as far as possible, will survive in the environment it is designed for; and invest in looking after (ie maintaining) the artworks in the long term. Unfortunately all of these qualities are rare, and often fall between several organisations and individuals, particularly given the long term attention required. Perhaps ironically, best practice is more common on privately owned land or developments, such as shopping centres, where there is a commercial incentive for the owner's assets to look their best.

I would agree with Ian Leith that our attitude to public art is lax, because it is hardly anyone's priority, yet everyone has an opinion about it. It is a shame that there is no national audit of public artworks, but perhaps if more local authorities like Lancaster City Council can commission an audit of their artworks we will start to be more aware of what we have, what could be rotated, what should be retired, and where we should be going in the future.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

James Turrell no longer on team for Quaker HQ

The Architect's Journal have published the news that American artist James Turrell (b.1943), who is best known for his meditative Skyspace artworks such as the one at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, will take no further part in the restoration of the grade II-listed Friends House (Quakers' Headquarters) oppposite Euston Station in Bloomsbury, London.

Architecture practice John McAslan + Partners have just won planning permission for the £4.25m refurbishment, with work due to start in early 2013.

According to the AJ:

"No explanation has been given as to why Turrell was no longer playing a part in the project. A spokeswoman for the Quakers simply said: ‘James Turrell is not involved with plans for Friends House.' 
The original designs were described as featuring a frameless piece of glass that ‘will appear to float above the auditorium, connecting the interior spaces to the sky above’."

To read the source article (for you need to subscribe to the AJ) visit:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Garudio Studiage's Peckham Peace Wall opens

Images © John Clare Photography

There are a lot of groovy two dimensional design-led public artworks cropping up in London at the moment. 

This one is by Garudio Studiage who are based in Peckham. They are a collective of four: Laura Cave (who trained as a jeweller), Hannah Havana (also a jeweller), Chris Ratcliffe (graphic designer) and Anna Walsh (painter). 

The Peckham Peace Wall at Peckham Square is made up of tiles of 4,000 post-it notes left on boards covering broken windows on Rye Lane after the riots in 2011. The original post-its were digitally hand-traced by the artists working with young people from Peckham.

The Peckham Peace Wall was commissioned by Peckham Space, with funding from Southwark Council's Greener Cleaner Safer fund awarded by Peckham & Nunhead Community Council. 

To read the source article, visit: 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bread Collective typographic mural in Hackney Wick

Bread Collective's beautiful 100 metre mural, The Walls Have Ears, is up in Hackney Wick in east London, where it lines one of the routes to the Olympic Park.

The design features words and phrases suggested by the local community through a series of workshops with local schoolchildren and views and stories gathered from other local residents. The project was funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation.

You can watch a short video about the project here:

To find out more, including the origin of the words chosen, visit the project blog site:

Temporary Hew Locke commission for Deptford X

Hew Locke, British artist and 'lead artist-curator' of Deptford X, the contemporary arts festival in south east London, has been commissioned by the festival to produce Gold Standard, a temporary artwork on Frankham Street in London.

The work consists of a series of printed posters pasted onto the building and nearby hoardings, with designs that come from paper share certificates, banknotes and other financial documents.

'Fine engravings of gods and goddesses, happy workers, new technology or expansive landscapes and factories decorate and beautify these papers. Newborn companies garlanded their shares with confident typography and classical motifs implying stability and worth. The classical motifs disguise the fact that some of these companies had not even started trading yet, or needed to raise extra funds.'

You can read more about the project in more detail on the artist's website at:

There's more about Deptford X here:

Deptford X 2012 runs from 27 July to 12 August 2012.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Callum Innes light commission at Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh-based painter Callum Innes (b.1962) has been commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and the nearby Ingleby Gallery to produce The Regent Bridge, a new temporary work at the 19th century Regent Bridge in the city.

The work will involve flooding the underside of the bridge at Calton Road (under Waterloo Place) with coloured light. Callum has worked with architect and lighting artist Gavin Fraser, of FOTO-MA Lighting Architects, to devise a scheme that transforms the flat sides of the lower arch at street level into an illuminated plinth of floating colour. The work follows a series of set rules to create a structured and yet deliberately random order of coloured light, revealing and lifting the giant curve of the arch above. 

The work will be visible 24 hours between 4 August – 2 September 2012. 

To find out more visit the festival's website:

Graeme Miller's On Air

You have until the 5th August to catch Graeme Miller's brilliantly conceived On Air, which forms part of on Exhibition Road in London.

On Air is a durational site-specific radio broadcast that compacts the elements of local radio into a simple poetic system. Broadcasters from the worlds of sport and the arts have been invited to narrate the constant flow of activity visible from their eyrie on Exhibition Road in London, from passers-by below them to clouds over the North Downs, to planes landing at Heathrow.

To listen in you can pick up a bespoke in-ear FM radio from one of the stewards, and become both observer and observed.
Graeme Miller is an artist, theatre maker and composer. Emerging from the bold and influential stage work of Impact Theatre Co-operative in the 1980s, a group he co-founded, his own work now embraces a wide range of media. With the idea of being ‘a composer of many things that may include music’, he has made theatre, dance, installations and interventions. Often reflecting a sense of landscape and place, he regularly makes site-specific works to commission.

The work was commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and produced by DREAM.

To find out more visit: 

The other commissions include one by Katie Paterson:

and one by Tomas Libertiny:

Studio Weave's tribute to Chaucer in Aldgate

Paleys upon Pilers by Studio Weave

Architects and designers Studio Weave's latest temporary commission has been unveiled in Aldgate in East London. The artists were commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects for the Olympic Games. The site marks the location of the historic Aldgate - where writer Geoffrey Chaucer lived between 1374 and 1386. 

Called Paleys upon Pilers (palace on pillars), the design was inspired by two dream poems (The House of Fame and The Parlement of Foules) written by Chaucer while he lived in the rooms above the gate. Paleys upon Pilers also marks the start of High Street 2012, the route from the City of London to the Games in Stratford. It was officially opened on the 27th July and will remain in place for the rest of the summer.

The project was constructed in place of the 100 metre-tall glass elevator that won a competition for the site back in 2010 but was abandoned when funding couldn’t be raised.

Read more about the project on Studio Weave's website:

There's also an article on Dezeen:

Ackroyd and Harvey's tree rings at the Olympic Park

One of the Olympic tree rings next to the Velodrome
Design studio Pentagram have recently blogged about their involvement in History Trees, a set of ten metal rings which each encircle a tree marking the entrances to the Olympic Park by artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey. Several of the artworks were unveiled in May 2012, and according to the artists' website: 'Three of the sculptures will be present for the Games with the remaining seven to be installed for the opening of the Queen Elizabeth II public park.' 

The artists worked with Harry Pearce and Naresh Ramchandani renowned graphic design team Pentagram on the typography, which is based on stories collected by artist Lucy Harrison and research provided by the Museum of London. Each ring is made from phosphored bronze and stainless steel. According to the Creative Review website, each piece 'measures 15 metres in diameter' but this would be massive so I am guessing they might mean 15 metres in length. Each ring tells the story of the area in which it is installed – as "pieces of verbal archaeology," as Ramchandani put it on the Pentagram blog.

Interestingly Creative Review magazine have raised the issue that the rings appear to be actually quite high up the trees, posing the query of how easy they are to actually read.....

Read more about the project on Ackroyd & Harvey's website:

Read source article at:

Creative Review wrote about some of the other commissions in an earlier blog posting: