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11 November 2017: Public art, Pimlico and beyond

Event led by John T
Attendance: 15 men
Distance: 12.6km (8 miles)
Time: start 11:09, end 16:36, lunch 45 minutes
Terrain: pavement and park track
Elevation: start 5m, high 27m, low 0m
Weather: cool, overcast, little or no wind 9°C
Target number of art objects to see: 62
Actual number of art objects we saw: 56 of the target 62, plus 2 plaques not on the target list.

This was an 8 mile point-to-point walk from Pimlico NW to Notting Hill Gate in the most indirect route possible to over-indulge in street art.  The whole route was in London Zone 1.

Following the success of London Public Art on 12 November 2016, we had another go to find more of the allegedly 400 total number of art objects to see.  London duly delivered another pile of artwork in a patchwork of different urban environments within central London.

This report describes more the environments in which the art appears, leaving the the art to speak for itself in the pictures below.

Walk leader John provided a list of artwork and a second list listing headline details about each lump of art, covering the concept of the art and its creator’s motivation.

The walk started at Pimlico tube with a two-minute silence to remember the fallen, followed immediately by a look at a brash and bawdy work of art, an attempt to decorate an air conditioning system into something into a work of art itself.

The urban village of Pimlico is a sprawling array of housing and commercial development.  In spite of some rather grand Victorian and Georgian properties - now used either as offices or embassies - the majority of the housing stock looks like tenements or social housing.  The extent of ordinariness was surprisingly high.  Tourist attractions on the riverside (Tate Britain, Millbank) are the bits we most associate with this part of London, yet one block away from the riverside appear more familiar names that we see in the provinces: Costcutter, Tesco, Sainsburys.  The architecture varies tremendously from street to street: one street might have a pretty row of Georgian cottages, adorning with aging ivy and well-maintained front garden, the next street a medium-rise 1950s block, desperately seeking to inspire modernist utopia on a then-austere budget.

A sudden burst of railways - including a bridge - gave way to the Grosvenor Waterside, a new development built around an old wharf, retained both of its locks, trapping some fairly stagnant water inside the wharf, leaving a basin of mud in between the modern tower blocks and the Thames.  A home here costs £995 per week.  A very small pocket of loveliness at Bloomfield Terrace followed, and our next work of art - Mozart - found itself mired in the middle of a farmers’ market.

Lunch was in Victoria Railway station.  The route after lunch slowly slid up the social scale, carefully hiding works of art in unusual places.  One particularly odd specimen was Fountainhead, a lump of metal wedged into brick wall in a very small shopping arcade just off Lowndes Street.

A re-visit to Belgrave Square introduced a new route into Hyde Park via Knightsbridge tube station.  The bizarre sight of people queueing to enter Harvey Nichols made us wonder whether this thing called the internet had yet reached central London.

Hyde Park revealed more works of art that are hidden in plain sight, plus some unusual wildlife, including Egyptian geese, black swans and shoveler ducks.  The notable work of art is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, a circle of stone mounted on an incline in which water courses through its carefully textured surfaces to create noise, currents and movement.

A circuitous route of Kensington Gardens took in art of royal, abstract and fairytale.  The annual temporary structure - the Serpentine Pavilion - next to the Serpentine Gallery was still present, and serving coffees.  A different pavilon appears each year, dismantled at the end of the season.  This year’s structure was the 17th such structure, by Frances Kéré, inspired by the village meeting tree of Kéré’s home in Burkina Faso.  The pavilion is scheduled for demolition from 19 November 2017.

We allowed plenty of time to see the Albert Memorial, a huge piece of art which is easy to pass by, but which takes a fair bit of time to see properly.

Kensington Gardens was also the scene of a mugging.  A troupe of particularly bold squirrels detected that some of us had nuts in our bags, and two of us found themselves besieged as one rather focussed squirrel ran up legs to investigate the tops of the rucksacks from the vantage point of shoulders.  The gang avoided all forms of photographic evidence, but we got one of ‘em.

On a related theme, we also saw a young couple feeding parakeets.  He held a piece of apple in each hand, and a parakeet landed on each hand to feed from the apple; she took pictures.

The modest artwork Hugging Bears interested most of the group, for the obvious reason.  As to the work itself, the work commemorated 80th anniversary of Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association and that the original work was stolen.

The last work of art was King William III in the private garden of Kensington Palace, just about visible in twilight, too dark for photography.  The walk ended at the gate of the Park, with half of the group leaving southbound via Kensington and half leaving northbound to Notting Hill Gate via Kensington Palace Gardens, admiring the opulent palatial mansions - many used as embassies - along the way.  And then we found a sign which served as a replacement pic for that of King William III.

The target list of the art works is available here.

The pub stop was the Mall Tavern, Notting Hill Gate.

Photos by Peter O’Connor and Martin Thornhill.  Words by Martin Thornhill.

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