Some of the best galleries in the world are in London, but this summer we urge you to step outside instead and take a look at the capital’s outdoor art.
Do you think most artwork is behind four walls? Then think again. Through the summer, and beyond, London has an array of art on display in public outdoor spaces, from the temporary displays to long-term pieces.
Our first tip is Frieze Sculpture, part of the Frieze London art fair, which takes over Regent’s Park’s English gardens every summer (to 7 Oct, 2018), with a range of 20th-century and contemporary pieces from all parts of the world. Take some scones, sandwiches and a blanket to enjoy an art picnic.
In Kensington Gardens, the temporary Serpentine Pavilion is now in place as the summer centrepiece on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn (to 7 Oct). The annual architectural commission is a magnet for the world’s hottest talent, so this year Mexico’s Frida Escobedo has crafted a courtyard that combines British and Mexican styles. More than just an architectural attraction, it hosts events throughout the summer, including regular Park Nights evening events.
Once you’ve admired Escobedo’s handiwork, walk to Hyde Park’s central Serpentine lake to inspect Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s massive The Mastaba. The couple conceived the project before Jeanne-Claude died in 2009, leaving Christo to realise the project alone. The 20m-high sculpture is inspired by the shape of mastaba benches, which were popular among the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia. It’s constructed from more than 7,500 red, white, blue and mauve barrels, and will be floating on top of the lake (to 23 Sep).
Make sure your sculpture trail takes in Trafalgar Square, by the National Gallery, where the famous fourth plinth has a new look. The glistening structure you see is Michael Rakowitz’s Lamassu, a mythical winged bull built from 10,500 Iraqi date syrup cans. Since 1998, the Fourth Plinth Project has welcomed 12 artworks to this spot, the latest underlining the damage Iraq has sustained in recent years.
It’s easy to overlook Victoria Tower Gardens between the Houses of Parliament and Lambeth Bridge, but seek it out and you’ll find a 1911 piece from Auguste Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais series. It’s one of the French master’s most famous sculptures and depicts six leading citizens (burghers) of Calais, who bravely offered their lives to end England’s year-long siege of the French town in 1347.
Make the short walk to Parliament Square, also near the Houses of Parliament, to see the first sculpture of a woman there, among the likes of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. Unveiled this spring, coinciding with the centenery celebrations of women's suffrage in Britain, Gillian Wearing’s work depicts feminist activist Millicent Fawcett, who fought political battles for women’s right to vote.