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Sculpture in the City, placed around some of the most striking skyscrapers of the City Cluster, combines the work of high-profile names on the international stage with emerging artists. The 12th Edition, selected from 447 submissions, features 18 artworks by 17 artists from ten different countries – all chosen for their ability to engage with and respond to the dramatic architectural setting.

Stella Ioannou, artistic director of Sculpture in the City and founding director of LACUNA, a creative projects studio, argues the case for more art in the capital. 

What’s different about the 12th edition?

Each edition is different as we showcase a new selection of artworks each year. This year’s 12th edition is by far our most international show with artists from 10 different countries and has a particular vibrancy with works such as Mika Rottenberg’s ‘Untitled Ceiling Projection’ and Larry Bell’s ‘Pacific Red IV’. Mika’s work is showing on the big, ceiling mounted LED screen at Fen Court, which we have returned to following a short break, and we are also back in St Helen’s churchyard with Isamu Noguchi’s ‘Rain Mountain, Duo and Neolithic’. This year we are also using the facade of 33 Creechurch Lane for a 22m tall site-specific artwork by Arturo Herrera ‘Untitled’, alongside a second site specific installation for the underside of the escalators at the Cheesegrater, also ‘Untitled’.  Once again we are showcasing a range of internationally acclaimed artists such as Phyllida Barlow and Ugo Rondinone, alongside new talent such as Simeon Barclay and emerging artists such as Rafael d’Aló and Jocelyn McGregor. The diversity brings a particular energy to this year’s exhibition which is important to the project and I hope all visitors will enjoy.  

How do you choose which public art goes where in the city?

The area for Sculpture in the City is a triangle defined by Bishopsgate, Bevis Marks/ Camomile Street and Fenchurch Street. We work closely with the partner companies Aviva, Bloomberg, Brookfield Properties, CC Land, The Gherkin, Hiscox, London & Oriental, Nuveen, T42, 22 Bishopsgate and the City of London to define spaces where the sculptures can be exhibited. The artworks we showcase are shortlisted by our fantastic Arts Advisory Group of contemporary art professionals (see below for more). I then personally meet each shortlisted artist for a dedicated site visit where we identify suitable sites for their artwork and then it’s down to the alchemy of matching an artwork to a landowner whilst also ensuring we stay within budget.  

Check out our rundown of upcoming events

Everyone is consulted and everyone needs to be happy and most importantly the artwork needs to be sited within the context of the dynamic urban environment and be able to be experienced the way the artist would like. Every year there are challenges and artworks which we can’t find a place for, or we don’t have the budget for but each year the final selection comes together to surprise and delight the visitors and put a smile on the face of City workers and members of the public.

How are the public spaces chosen as the locations for the sculptures?

The sites are chosen with both the artist and the specific artwork in mind. From the very beginning when I started working on the project, back in November 2010, it was very important to me that the artwork was sited contextually. We do not just put the artworks where we think is right, we go through a very detailed process with the artists/artwork as well as our project partner companies whose spaces we use to exhibit the selected artworks. The project has grown year on year through the commitment of our project partners and the ongoing, committed relationships between the City of London, the landowners and Lacuna. I come to this project with an architectural background and context is key for how the project is both presented and experienced. After 12 years of working in the area I enjoy placing artworks in unexpected locations challenging the preconception of what public art should be. It is a very contemporary environment worthy of a selection of some of the most exciting contemporary sculpture.  

How did you choose from the 447 submissions?

We have the most fabulous group of contemporary art professionals who form the project’s Arts Advisory Group,: Iwona Blazwick (former Director of the Whitechapel Gallery), Andrea Schlieker (Head of Exhibitions, Tate Britain), Sepake Angiama (Director, INIVA), Whitney Hinz (Curator, Hiscox), Lotte Johnson (Senior Curator, Barbican Art Gallery) and Thomas J Price (guest artist). I present the submissions to them over a long session, and they shortlist the artworks they would like to see in the exhibition.  

Have any themes come through that you hadn’t expected?

We never have a theme for the show but each year current themes come through. This year we have artworks which address the theme of nature, social conditions and injustice, gender issues, light and reflection, and movement. It is always great when the show is in, and we can start seeing the invisible threads which connect the artworks.  

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What’s new for the 12th edition?

As I mentioned above we are using a new site at 33 Creechurch Lane and also returning to the LED screen at Fen Court and St Helen’s churchyard. We have a new MSCTY track, ‘Stepped Back’ at the Cheesegrater which you can enjoy while on site. This year we are also delivering SculptureFest, a full day of family workshops and events on the 16th September. Following last year’s successful London Sculpture Week we are partnering with Frieze Sculpture, the Fourth Plinth and the Line to deliver a diverse programme of events (16-13 September).  Sculpture in the City will deliver a series of free public tours of the project. 

How successful is Sculpture in the City - do you know how many people have been on the tour?

It is practically impossible to count our visitors, but we know we have hundreds of thousands. We have been doing tours since the launch at the end of June which are very well attended, and our next series of free tours for London Sculpture Week are booking up fast. You can book tickets here 

What has the feedback been?

The feedback from this year’s show has been extremely positive. All our visitors really enjoy seeing the artworks alongside the tall buildings in the City Cluster and discovering new nooks and crannies of the City of London. The exhibition brochures we have out on display at our information hub in the reception of 22 Bishopsgate have been flying off the shelf so do please come and collect one and enjoy the show. You can also download a map from our website and you can also enjoy the audio guide with our artists on Bloomberg Connects. This is why I set up Lacuna to curate and realise unique cultural encounters, build new communities, and create ongoing relationships and collaborations. 

Can you say more about MSCTYx - architecture-inspired music? That sounds really interesting!

We first started working with MSCTY back in 2018 for the first Nocturnal Creatures festival we delivered as a partner to the Whitechapel Gallery. Nick Luscombe, who set up MSCTY and is a world-renowned DJ, has always been fascinated by architecture, in fact, he told me he wanted to be an architect when he was a child. Nick works with an incredibly diverse group of musicians whom he commissions to produce a soundscape for a site he has matched them with. MSCTY x SITC includes thirteen commissioned tracks ranging from modern classical and electronic to globally inspired soundscapes. Download the soundscape from the MSCTY website and enjoy the soundscape in the place which sparked its creation.  

All photos @NickTurpin