The purpose of my visit today was to visit an exhibition at the Town House in Fournier Street, but as it was a beautifully warm sunny October day, I decided to check out a few places on my to do list whilst in the City before heading off to Spitalfields.
My exhibition invitation
Making my way from St Paul’s tube station, I went in search of the garden of a church which I had recently read about in the Londonist. The Church of St Vedast-alias-Foster can be found in Foster Lane, but a stones throw away from its considerably bigger brother St Paul’s. Partially damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 St Vedast was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren with some help from Nicholas Hawksmoor. The church today is responsible for 13 other neighbouring parishes whose churches have been lost through fire, war or development.
The unusual name Vedast derives from a French saint and has been corrupted over time by way of Vastes, Fastes, Fauster to the Foster of today. Only one other church in Tathwell Lincolnshire is dedicated to him in this country.
I assumed the church and its gardens would be open today it being a Sunday, but on arrival the noticeboard informed me otherwise! Oh well another time perhaps…
I decided to stroll down Cheapside and as I passed by St Mary Le Bow its famous “oranges and lemons” bells were pealing. I turned up King Street to call into the Guildhall which was looking stunning on this sunny morning…
On reaching the door I found it seemed to be locked in spite of the sign clearly stating it should be open! A couple of other would be visitors turned up and seemed surprised to be unable to gain entry and finally a security officer opened the door to inform the waiting crowd that there had been a power cut so the building was unable to open! First a closed church and now the Guildhall too!
My journey however was not wasted as I did manage to see the sculpture of Dick Whittington and his cat in one of the arches near the entrance. I wrote about cats of London in one of my earlier posts and hadn’t included this significant memorial to London’s most famous Lord Mayor and his legendary feline chum.
His cat is certainly very happy at his master’s feet!
On leaving the courtyard I couldn’t help but notice the curved arc of black bricks in the pavement which mark the line of the Roman amphitheatre which lies deep below the Guildhall.
Lost for centuries the original walls were rediscovered in 1988 by archaeologists working on the site of the Guildhall’s new art gallery .
Who would believe that below this art gallery lies a section of Roman London!
The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre
The site is now a protected monument and the remains are atmospherically displayed below the gallery and are well worth a visit.
Back down Lothbury and towards the Bank of England I headed. Sundays in the city are always wonderful with no crowds and little traffic, the downside is there aren’t too many coffee shops open either!
As I walked along Bishopsgate I noticed a large bell lying on the pavement…well actually two bells fused together in silence!
Bells II by Kris Martin
Unfortunately whilst I thought I had photographed this sculpture, when returning home it appeared that somehow I hadn’t! So both of the bell photos reproduced here are courtesy of my fellow blogger The LadyTravels http://www.theladytravels.com/sculptureinthecity/
A closer look revealed that it was one of several pieces sited as part of the Sculpture in the City Trail.
I decided to follow the trail!
Crossing over Bishopsgate I headed towards Leadenhall Street to find the two tall skinny cats dressed in human clothing pacing around their plinth!
Days of Judgement – Cats 1 & 2 by Laura Ford
They seemed a bit worried or deep in thought…!
On towards Leadenhall Market… its name originating from the leaden roofed mansion of the Neville family where in the 14th century merchants sold butter and cheese.
The ornate entrance to the market today dates from 1881 and was designed by Sir Horace Jones who also designed Tower Bridge and Smithfield Market.
I had to look up to find the next sculpture.
Ghost by Adam Chodzko
Now suspended from the ornate roof trusses in the market, since 2010 this kayak has travelled along the River Medway in Kent, the River Tamar in Devon, through The Olympic Park, London, and along the Tyne in Newcastle.
I love the vibrant colours of the shop fronts and the market’s Victorian detailing
Out of the market in search of the next sculpture I couldn’t help but notice this sham facade next to the Lloyds Building
The old and the new!
What is it about the Lloyds building that I find so fascinating? Every time I pass by this iconic building I can always find a different angle to photograph!
The Lloyds Building built between 1978 and 1986 was designed by Richard Rogers. It is sometimes known as the “inside-outside building” as all its service shafts, ducting and lifts are on the outside so as to to maximise the space within. A real example of out of the box thinking! A mere 25 years after its completion, it was the youngest building to achieve Grade I listed building status.
Also great reflections of it in the Willis office building opposite in Lime Street
Next to the front door of Lloyds in Lime Street, I found the next sculpture…
Old DNA by Folkert de Jong The Dutch artist created this from a 3D scan of a suit of armour belonging to Henry VIII
Well it was here that my sculpture search went a bit awry! The next sculpture I was looking for was Rays by Xavier Veilhan which according to the trail map was just nearby! I walked around for ages searching for it and thought perhaps that the sculpture had been removed for repairs… either that or the sculpture was actually these shiny black benches around the Willis building!
Little did I realise that had I looked up to the top of the white post, I would have seen the sculpture, well above head height!
My thanks yet again to TheLadyTravels for her generosity in letting me reproduce her photos of this sculpture.
How could I have missed this..?
Rays (London) by Xavier Veilhan Both of the above two photos are courtesy of TheLadyTravels
After my mystifying disappearing sculpture experience, and having negotiated my way through and round the nearby building works, I reached the next sculpture on the trail.
‘O my friends, there are no friends’ by Sigalit Landau
These pairs of bronze shoes tied together with ordinary laces were first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2011 and this is the first time that the work has been displayed in the UK.
These boots certainly aren’t made for walking!
Next stop…30 St Mary Axe, previously known as the Swiss Re building, today it is fondly known as the The Gherkin. Designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2003, it is built on the site of the former site of the Baltic Exchange which was badly damaged in 1992 by an IRA bomb. Today it is as iconic a landmark as Tower Bridge and The Shard, and its distinctive shape means that it can be seen from some 20 miles away!
Whilst the building is curved, strangely there is only one piece of curved glass in its construction and that is the lens at the top!
The sculpture trail listed 4 pieces around its base. The first one I found was the last sculpture to be installed and is enormous, by the famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Forever by Ai Weiwei
This grouping of stainless steel bikes refers to the “Forever ” brand of bicycles that have been mass produced since the 1940’s in Shanghai.
Some of the bike’s wheels also spun round!
…how many bicycles in Beijing…not as many as there were perhaps..?
I could have spent ages photographing this sculpture but I had three more to find nearby…
Red Atlas by Ekkehard Altenburger this sculpture leans gently against the wall held firm by its sheer weight!
Close by I found this most enchanting group! Despite their size these bronze sculptures have a very powerful prescence!
Carson, Emma, Takashi, Zezi and Nia by Tomoaki Suzuki
Lets meet them in turn!
Japanese artist Tomoaki Suzuki has created painstakingly detailed portraits of these diverse urban youths at about one third of their actual size!
From the trail map there appeared to be another sculpture at the base of the Gherkin…but could I find it? I walked round and round searching for it and also asked some passers by clutching clipboards if they knew where it was. They didn’t! They were busy doing a city treasure hunt against the clock and had no time to discuss sculptures!
So out onto Bury Street and into Camomile Street and back into St Mary Axe I walked searching…in fact I think I did three complete circuits of the Gherkin…until I heard a faint sound like a tune played by an ice cream van! I followed the sound and hidden behind a tree and a walkway the elusive sculpture came into view!
This sculpture fuses old car parts combined with jingles that are played in the Tokyo public transport system and thank goodness it did else I would never have found it tucked away!
Crossing back over to St Helens the next sculpture was not hard to see!
Charity by Damien Hirst
Charity is a 22 feet high bronze sculpture and is based upon The Spastics Society’s (whose now more PC name is Scope) charity collection boxes which were commonly placed outside shops and chemists in the 1960’s and 70’s.
This version by Hirst shows the collecting box has been vandalised, the money box door is ajar it contents emptied and the remaining coins lying on the ground next to a giant crowbar.
In front of Charity is another sculpture…
This sculpture of intersecting cuboid forms originates in digital 3D design software the shapes later cast into solid bronze.
Just around the corner in front of St Helen’s Church I found the next sculpture…
Broken Pillar #12 by Shan Hur
This site specific installation was adapted to the surroundings of this ancient church and shows a large vase breaking out of a stone pillar.
Back out onto Bishopsgate and on to the final sculpture of the trail, sited in St Botolphs-without-Bishopsgate Gardens.
Altar by Kris Martin
Based upon the multi panelled 15th century Ghent altarpiece by Van Eyck, Martin’s sculpture is a metal replica of the frame through which we we can refocus our attention on the familiar cityscape. Oh and the pigeons liked it too!
My sculpture trail was complete…now why had I come to the City today?
Oh yes… off towards Spitalfields for the exhibition! On my way I passed by the elegant building that was the London Fruit and Wool Exchange in Brushfield Street, which used to look like this…
and now looks like this…Boris strikes again!
This fine building built in 1929 along with the Gun Pub next door and a bank on the corner of Commercial Road, are to be “redeveloped” despite widespread protest from the Council, locals and conservation groups.
The boarded up Gun Pub
The London Fruit and Wool Exchange (LFWE) became famous during WWII as its basement housed “Mickeys Shelter” the biggest air raid shelter in the East End, run by Mickey Davis. The shelter a received the gift of a canteen from Marks and Spencer which at the height of the Blitz, could serve 5,000 people a night.
The exterior of the LFWE was carefully repaired and cleaned by Norman Foster and Partners as part of the Spitalfields Market redevelopment opposite and prior to the demolition crews moving on site this year, its interior was largely unaltered with its purpose designed auction rooms.
The Auction rooms in session
Sadly, despite the opposition and campaigns to try to save the LFWE, London’s Mayor has yet again intervened ignoring local council and local peoples views. All that will soon be left of this historic building will be its elegant facade simply tacked on to a new and much taller building behind changing the vista of this street forever…
Such mayoral interventions seem to be the norm these days where Boris is concerned, witness Norton Folgate and the Bishopsgate Goodsyard schemes, both of which he has called in, the latter even before local councils had a chance to express an opinion! Democracy in action…not!
On to Fournier Street to the Town House Gallery for artist Paul Bommer’s Magic Lantern Exhibition…
Town House Fournier Street
On arrival I found the Paul with his partner, Nick, sitting having tea in the tiny little garden behind the shop. I had never met Paul before, but having corresponded with him on several occasions, we began chatting about his work as though we had known each other for ages! Paul’s carefully executed and detailed artwork always makes me smile and I love the vibrant colours he uses.
I particularly liked the print of Father Thames seen behind Paul here. Thanks to Vav Bastos for letting me reproduce his photo of the smiling artist!
So much so that I just had to buy it!
Old Father Thames strides confidently down the river, bullrushes in his hair and trident in hand…and the details of his “tattoos” are wonderful as they depict aspects, people and places of the river from its source to the sea.
All manner of Thameside history is here, from mudlarking finds, to landmark buildings and lost tributaries to famous people and riverine wildlife!
I really liked the Green Man too…spot the cat and the spider!…Christmas is coming but have got a spare wall!
This jolly sunny seaside piece is so full of life and is Paul’s homage to Edward Bawden’s illustrations in Dell Leigh’s East Coasting. I particularly like the small details such as the seagull stealing a fish, the crab pinching the man and stealing his hat, and the alligator with Mr Punch’s sausages!
Crabs and Shannocks depict the names and faces of real-life fishermen from Cromer and Sheringham, shannock refers to a resident of Sheringham. Apparently their jumpers known as “ganseys” were knitted in a distinctive pattern so as to identify their origin if they were drowned and washed ashore!
For more information and to see lots more of Paul’s work do check out his online store http://paulbommer.bigcartel.com/
I said my goodbyes and left Paul sketching away in a large black notebook in the garden…more ideas for future works I expect! After a mooch around Spitalfields market which was by now closing up for the day, I began to retrace my steps back to St Paul’s.
I decided to have a meal before setting off back home to Worcestershire and was quite pleased to sit down after pounding the city pavements.
Footnote: There is a nifty device on an iPhone which measures how many steps you walk so I decided to check it out. I had apparently taken 19,049 steps today… equating to 9 miles…no wonder it was a relief to sit down!