Outdoor art: the best London art exhibitions in the open air
Finally, the sun's come out to play. In celebration, we round up the the best art exhibitions, guided walks, and outdoor sculpture trails away from London's stuffy museums this summer
The Serpentine Pavilion
Serpentine Pavilion 2018 designed by Frida Escobedo
Every year Kensington's Serpentine Gallery commissions an architecture firm to dream up a temporary pavilion for its grounds. Since 2000 this has been a highlight of London’s art and design calendar.
Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is the 18th architect to design one of the world's most prestigious architectural commissions. At only 38, she is the youngest practitioner to take on the project, and the first solo woman since the late Zaha Hadid.
Renowned for her Mexican community projects that revitalise forgotten urban spaces, Escobedo’s Pavilion, referred to as a 'living timepiece', features a courtyard enclosed by dark latticed walls made from British cement roof tiles, a curved mirrored canopy and a shallow triangular pool set into the Pavilion floor.
For the duration of the summer, the Pavilion hosts a jam-packed programme of events, including the popular Park Nights arts series, and Radical Kitchen lunches, intended to trigger debate about food, politics, and art. Read more here.
Read our interview with Frida Escobedo here.
What you need to know about the Serpentine Summer Season
The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake)
Christo, The Mastaba, © 2017 Christo
The name Christo conjures up many things: the Reichstag shrouded in silvery fabric in Berlin, the Pont Neuf wrapped in fabric in Paris in 1985 and the 92,900 square meters of wrapped coastline in Australia. Over the last 50 years, the Bulgarian sculptor, together with his late wife Jeanne-Claude, has created some of the most dramatic outdoor sculpture and art installations in the world – many of them have been wrapped, draped or shrouded in billowing fabric.
Now, Christo presents his first major work in the UK, on the Serpentine. But this monumental outdoor sculpture doesn't involve fabric: instead, it consists of 7,506 barrels painted in red, white, blue and mauve, stacked horizontally within a steel framework on top of a platform anchored to the lakebed. The installation, weighing approximately 500 tons, has two vertical sides, two slanted sides and a flat top. It takes the from of a Mastaba, a type of ancient Egyptian tomb. As with all of Christo's works, The Mastaba has not been commissioned. The artist has not only funded the project, but spent thousands renting out the Serpentine for the summer, bolstering Serpentine conservation funds.
The Mastaba is part of a major exhibition of artist Christo and late wife Jeanne-Claude's work at the Serpentine Galleries this summer.
What you need to know about the Serpentine Summer Season
Frieze Sculpture Park 2018
Richard Woods, Holiday Home (Regent’s Park), 2018
Curated by Clare Lilley, the Director of Programme, Yorkshire Sculptue Park, Frieze Sculpture 2018 presents 25 new and significant works by 20th-century masters and leading contemporary artists from around the world including Tracey Emin, Elmgreen & Dragset and Sean Scully. For the first time, Mtec, logistics partner for Frieze Sculpture, will cover the cost of installation for two emerging galleries, enabling them to participate in the display.
Frieze Sculpture is accompanied by a free Audio Tour by Clare Lilley and family trail in a new, freely downloadable app, produced in partnership with ARTimbarc. The app will launch on 3 July on frieze.com/sculpture.
Please note that the Frieze Sculpture Park is open 4 July - 7 October and is free to attend.
Art on the Underground: my name is lettie eggsyrub, Gloucester Road Tube Station
Heather Phillipson, my name is lettie eggsyrub, 2018
Quirky, intriguing and downright funny: my name is lettie eggsyrub – British artist Heather Phillipson's first public UK commission – spans the entirety of the 80m disused platform at Gloucester Road Underground station. On view for one year, this major new commission explores the egg as an object of reproduction, subject to human interference. In this enormous sculptural and video installation, Phillipson uses video game-style layout techniques to magnify eggs and avian body-parts to monstrous proportions. It's so unusual that it definitely merits a quick trip to Gloucester Road.
Kimchi and Chips: Halo, Somerset House
Kimchi & Chips: Halo © Doug Peters Press Association
The latest major courtyard installation at Somerset House is a large-scale futuristic sculpture which harnesses the power of the sun to form a circle of light suspended in the air.
Designed by Anglo-Korean artist duo Kimchi and Chips, Halo, is their first light installation which solely uses a natural rather than an artificial light source. The construction is made up of of two towers and 100 motorised mirrors which move in line with the sun alongside fine water jets creating an otherworldly environment. The floating halo of reflected sunlight constantly evolves and the work invites audiences to look at this favourite public space through a magical lens (until 27 June).
Sculpture in the City
Stuck in the office and desperately staring out at the sunshine? Why not take a stroll between art world heavyweights like Tracey Emin and Marina Abramovic in the eighth edition of Sculpture in the City. This fantastic outdoor sculpture exhibition lets visitors weave their way between the towering Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the Lloyd's building to enjoy the best contemporary sculptures you'll find in London.
The Line: East London Sculpture Walk
East London’s reply to the New York High Line (organised by Mega Piper), The Line is London's first modern and contemporary art walk crammed full of outdoor art for the summer. Expect bold pieces and big names: a Damien Hirst artwork is accompanied by giants of the art world, from Martin Creed to Antony Gormley.
A little further afield: Colour Space, Houghton Hall
Damien Hirst’s Sensation at Houghton Hall. Photographs Damien Hirst and Science Ltd
Stately home Houghton Hall is a Palladian haven exhibiting paintings by the likes of Rembrandt and Velázquez. Bur for the duration of the summer its grand rooms and expansive grounds are home to a new series of paintings by the master of contemporary art: Damien Hirst. Colour Space is a development of the much-in-demand Spot Paintings Hirst developed in the 80s and 90s.
Also drawing the crowds are some of the artist’s most celebrated sculptures, installed around the 18th century house and its garden. The 33-foot statue Virgin Mother (2005 –2006) displaying a pregnant woman anatomically, both glorifying and humanizing the female figure, stands tall in the grounds. It's really quite the spectacle. But so are the herds of white deer that inhabit the expanse of parkland.
Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky, Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Alexander Calder exhibition installation view.
It may be hard to believe, but one of Britain’s most compelling contemporary art venues is nestled in deepest rural Somerset.
The countryside home for powerhouse gallery Hauser & Wirth is at Durslade Farm in Bruton. Built within the shells of the old farm buildings, it is a strikingly modern space. With a roster of successful summer shows already under its belt, Hauser & Wirth Somerset draws crowds from all over the world.
This summer is no different, as the gallery gears up to present a major solo show of works by pioneering twentieth-century sculptor Alexander Calder. Known predominantly for his wire sculptures, standing mobiles and large outdoor works, Calder also made a large quantity of hand-crafted domestic object-sculptures, including jewellery, toasters and chess sets. With almost 100 pieces on display running across the five gallery spaces and gardens, this glorious exhibition showcases the integration of his artistic practice and the innovative genius of a modern master.
Read our exhibition review here.
But there's more to Hauser & Wirth than the exhibition space. Make sure you spend time in the gorgeous gallery garden, devised by garden designer Piet Oudolf; his classic perennials and contoured beds sit among spectacular banks of magnolias leading up to the glorious hilltop vista with soothing views over the surrounding meadows. Check out the architectural splendour of the Radić Pavilion (the Serpentine Pavilion in 2014) and have a bite to eat in the Roth Bar and Grill, where all meals are made with Durslade Farm's own produce.