Arts & Culture  Features

Public Art in Nine Elms

Sea Island Coffee House at Riverlight

Published on
October 9, 2017


Around and between the clusters of buildings and cultural spaces in Battersea,  Nine Elms and Vauxhall, is a trail of public art that weaves its way through the area. Often site-sensitive – drawing on the history of the area or the immediate surroundings – and including both historic modernist artworks and newly commissioned contemporary pieces, here we trace a route that creates a rich and thought-provoking visual journey for a curious wanderer, all the way from Battersea Park to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

  1. Three Standing Figures by Henry Moore (1947) – Battersea Park

    The three standing women in this sculpture, were developed from a series of drawings inspired by Moore’s observations of people seeking safety in bomb shelters during The Blitz. A listed monument, the positioning of the figures is reminiscent of Canova’s Neoclassical sculpture The Three Graces. A plaster copy of the work can be found on the other side of the river at Tate Britain.
  2. The Brown Dog, Nicola Hicks (1985) – Battersea ParkThe current sculpture is the second iteration of this monument. Originally unveiled in 1906 by animal rights campaigners as a memorial to animals bred and used for the purpose of scientific experiments, the sculpture was removed in 1910. This was due to its contentious nature – it became a focus of both pro-science and anti-vivisection campaigners, which necessitated a 24-hour police guard for the statue in order to protect it. The current version is a reinterpretation of the original, and was sponsored by anti-vivisection animal rights campaigners.
  3. War Memorial  of the 24th East Surrey Division, Eric Kennington RA (1924) – Battersea Park

    This sculpture of three infantry men by the war artist Eric Kennington RA, commemorates the service of the 24th Division, which fought in the Battles of Loos, Delville Wood, Guillemont, Messines, Vimy Ridge and the Battle of the Sambre during WWI. The figure to the left of the group is modelled on the writer and poet Robert Graves, author of the war memoir ‘Goodbye to All That’.
  4. Single Form (Memorial), Barbara Hepworth (1964)   – Battersea ParkSingle Form (Memorial) is a smaller copy of the work Single Form, which was commissioned as a memorial to UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskejold and installed outside the United Nations HQ in New York. The New York work was the largest work ever created by Hepworth, in 1970 art critic Edwin Mullins suggested, ‘it is a torso, it is a profile with an eye, it is an expanse of space in which the sun rises, it is a blade, it is a human hand… raised flat in a sign of authority, or of a salute, or of a gesture of allegiance.’
  5. POWER, Morag Myerscough (2017) – Battersea Power StationMorag Myerscough has created a new commission for  the entrance to Grosvenor Arch. Made from  marine plywood panels and hand painted in Myerscough’s signature brightly coloured style, the work  takes  its inspiration from the art deco detailing found on the fixtures and fittings of the original power station.
  6. The Powerhouse Commission (2017 Onwards) – Battersea Circus West PlazaThis is a new rolling outdoor sculpture programme in partnership with CASS Sculpture Foundation. The sculptures currently on view are by international artists Jesse Wine and Haffendi Anuar.Local Vocals, the new commission from Jesse Wine references historical sculpture contemporaneous to the origins of the power station, by recreating and reinterpreting the work of Henry Moore, who studied at the Royal College of Art in the early 20th century, and presented work in Battersea Park. It also incorporates Wine’s signature style through the depictions of objects that adorn the stylised reclining figure.Malaysian artist Haffendi Anuar has created Machines for Modern Living, a series of pilotis – traditional architectural columns that lift a building above ground or water, which commonly support stilted dwellings across Asia. The sculptural pieces are intended as surrogates of Battersea Power Station’s chimneys – bringing them within grasp through anchoring them at ground level within the Circus West Village site.
  7. Light & Water, Kate Davis in collaboration with David Moore (2014) – Riverlight

    The commission responds to the subject of light around in the open spaces around the Riverlight development. The artworks comprise a series of embedded polished stainless steel elements that utilise water and natural reflection to draw light into the landscape – this includes a mirrored tree house, which is revealed and hidden with the changing seasons.
  8. Skystation, Peter Newman (2005) – Riverlight

    Skystation is an interactive sculpture that draws on Le Corbusier’s iconic LC4 chaise longue, to incorporate contours intended to fit the reclining human figure. One of a series of works that has been presented both in the UK and internationally, the spaceship-like sculpture encourages passers-by to take a seat and  experience the area from a different perspective.
  9. Terra Ludi, Simon & Tom Bloor (2015) – Riverlight

    Simon and Tom Bloor employ concrete and bronze to create the rocky outcrop and tree trunk sculptural elements that make up Terra Ludi. Alluding to natural materials, the sculpture explores and encourages informal play in the landscape.
  10. Florian, Sarah Lucas (2013) – Embassy Gardens

    Florian is a giant marrow cast in highly polished bronze. It’s provocative, humorous and undeniably phallic and typical of the work of the artist who has always been fascinated by the human anatomy. Florian confronts the viewer as an object that is both familiar and disorientating in equal measure.
  11. Modern Marriage, Simon Fujiwara (2014) – Embassy Gardens

    Modern Marriage takes the form of a large Romanesque foot with a wedding ring embedded into the sole. Described as a reflective piece, it is in keeping with the often highly autobiographical and emotive nature of Fujiwara’s work.

    Simon Fujiwara, Modern Marriage at Embassy Gardens

    Simon Fujiwara, Modern Marriage at Embassy Gardens

  12. Edward Snowden mosaic, unknown – opposite US Embassy

    Fixed to a wall opposite the new US embassy is a small mosaic of the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who fled the country after leaking classified information that revealed the extent of US surveillance activities. This work by an unknown artist, is inscribed with the legend ‘Thanks for the truth’.
  13. From Dawn to Dusk, Tord Boontje (2017) – Riverside Gardens

    Tord Boontje was inspired by the story that JMW Turner used to visit this spot by the river, as he was able to see both the sun rising and setting above the water. The benches and chairs that Boontje has created are able to turn to follow the path of the sun, so that those using them can choose their view of the surroundings. The benches also double as planters, incorporating drought tolerant species such as Agapanthus, Fragaria (Strawberry) and Tulbhagia (Society Garlic).

    Riverside Gardens pocket park, featuring new seating installation, Dawn to Dusk, by Studio Tord Boontje

    Riverside Gardens pocket park, featuring new seating installation, Dawn to Dusk, by Studio Tord Boontje

  14. Untitled, Paola Piglia (2015)Local artist Paola Piglia has created two steel sculptures that sit atop 18 metre high columns at the entrance to the Gardens. Based on drawings by the artist, the figures show a young man from the modern day offering a flower to a woman in 18th century dress, signifying the history of the site and its continued use as a recreational space.

Like the area itself, the landscape of public art in Nine Elms on the South Bank is under development, as new commissions arrive and temporary pieces are removed and replaced. 2018 will see the launch of a work by Random International along the Albert Embankment, new sculptural pieces at Vista, bordering the eastern edge of Battersea Park, and other temporary and permanent commissions, all to be explored as you wander through the area.


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