Sculpture in the City 2016, 12th August

Michael Lyons’ sculpture, Centaurus is hard to understand since its name seems to suggest a constellation of stars. Yet its placement in Sculpture in the City seems to suggest just the opposite, tall office blocks and busy traffic. The trail itself, of 20 sculptures is excellent. By good fortune the meaning, as I understand it, of Centaurus has just come to me a couple of days later. A run along the Thames has precipitated this and it is one of those moments where, with a fine, glowing sunset, the City is actually looking quite nice.

Here is the background. Sculpture in the City is a trail of art that extends in a southwards direction from the NatWest Tower, as I’ve always known it to be called, to just beyond the Cheese Grater, as I still prefer it to be called, and then back north to the Gherkin, which will always be its true name. In short, the trail has a North-to-South orientation forming a sort of point at its southernmost extent, though this could well be a coincidence. It is near this point that Michael Lyons’ Centaurus is located. It is a simple looking object reminiscent of a Totem or tall sundial with a semi-circular, metal feature at the top of a tall, nicely corroded metal stand or plinth.

From afar these three buildings, which frame the sculpture trail, again announce their North-to-South geometry, this time emphasised with the red ridges of a setting sun shining off their southern facades like the red paint sometimes used on bar magnets to indicate their polarity in old science labs. I think they still do that, don’t they?

Anyway a quick browse on the internet before writing this confirms that Richard Rogers, whose Cheese Grater is the dominate element of this little, red, glowing constellation, is obsessed with due South and has located his building precisely in that orientation. This is fortunate because the plaza in which it is located and which precedes it by many years, also has this orientation extending to the buildings in it and the paving slabs on it. Finally it is on the very edge of this plaza that Centaurus has been installed, holding true to the principles of the space in which it is located. Its rectangular plinth is perfectly aligned, meaning of course that its semi-circular head faces due South in the manner of all its surrounding architecture. Presumably the additional privilege it has of being a work of art is that it can subtly draw attention to this fact. I don’t know where Centaurus is in the sky but the name corresponds well to Michael Lyon’s artwork insofar as the sculpture seems more concerned with the cosmic relationships of alignment in the City’s architecture than with its own physical appearance, beautiful though that is.


Centaurus by Michael Lyons. The sculpture faces due south, as do the surrounding buildings, in fact, and is the inspiration for this week’s blog, the London Compass.

Gavin Turk in Sculpture In The City

Huma Bhabha of Stephen Friedman in Sculpture In The City.

William Kentridge of Marian Goodman gallery. The artist has produced a composite portrait of a poverty stricken figure selling coals.

Sarah Lucas of Sadie Coles HQ in Sculpture In The City.

Ugo Rondinone of Sadie Coles HQ in Sculpture In The City.

Lukas Duwenhogger at Raven Row. Exotic symbol-laden paintings.

Giuseppe Penone in Sculpture In The City. Bronze tree with smooth boulders.

Brick Lane activity.

Anthony Caro of Gagosian in Sculpture In The City. Made from additions to a sea floatation tank.

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