Out There will highlight some of the most significant artworks that exist in public spaces, aiming to encourage the same the level of appreciation that classics of post-war architecture receive. “The brave new art for that brave new world has not been under the same sort of spotlight … and it is vulnerable,” says the show’s curator, Sarah Gaventa.
The exhibition coincides with the announcement that Historic England, the body which last year took over the listing, heritage protection and grant-making powers from English Heritage, has given listed status to 41 public artworks.
These include Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure on the John Lewis store in London’s Oxford Street and her Rosewall (Curved Reclining Form) in Chesterfield, Derbyshire; one of Antony Gormley’s first public sculptures, commissioned by Camden council in the early 1980s; and William Pye‘s 1971 work Zemran, sited on Queen Elizabeth Hall terrace on the capital’s Southbank.
Speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4 earlier, Pye said that public art was important because “it provides a wonderful focus, it provides a sort of marker for generations to come and it’s provocative. It should provoke and enhance public spaces”.
The listing of significant works follows on from a campaign calling for public art to be given better protection, an issue that Pye was all too aware of himself. On the Today programme he described how one of his works was scrapped when the new owners of a Road Chef motorway services decided they no longer wanted the sculpture outside the building.
“The art featured in this show was never destined for galleries,” says Paul Belford. “It was for council estates, high streets and municipal parks. It lives in the real world. Sometimes people hated it, or nicked it and melted it down for scrap, or staged passionate local campaigns to save it from evil property developers. So it was often controversial and newsworthy. The design of these posters, referencing press clippings reflects that.”
Out There will be at Somerset House from February 3 and the posters (two shown here) will run as cross-tracks on the London Underground. Belford’s agency named the exhibition and the new posters point once again to a marked shift towards long copy work from art institutions (see Tate’s recent 500 Years of Stories campaign).
Out There will take over the East Wing Galleries at Somerset House as is part of the institution’s year of Utopia-themed programming marking the 500th anniversary of the publication of Sir Thomas More’s classic text. More details at somersethouse.org.uk. More of Paul Belford Ltd’s work is at paulbelford.com.