Public Art at Canary Wharf

Where has the ‘1% for Art’ gone? It was removed from the Section 106 planning agreement by Cameron and Osborne I am sorry to say. It appears public art funding was already in decline before the Covid 19 virus – now going forward who knows?

Well you can still find some very good public art already in situ.

I first went to Canary Wharf back in 1991 to visit the first completed office tower, No.1 Canada Square, soon after the ‘property crash’ of the early nineties had hit the U.K. I think the development has now gone through two owners since the original builder/developer, Olympia & York went bust.

Over the years since the first spade was put into the ground in 1988, the Estate has been expanded and added to. Originally the development was purely office space and some ancillary shopping in the lower ground floor areas below the office towers. Now the Estate is being expanded to include residential towers.

One must give credit to the owners over the years what they have done, and continue to do by investing in the public realm, and also some fine public art.

This particular ‘public realm’ is well maintained and provides a dynamic setting for some fine pieces of sculpture.In my opinion there are four outstanding pieces of sculpture. I will begin with ‘Couple On Seat’ by Lynn Chadwick (1984 – Steel).

‘Couple On Seat’ (1984 - Steel) by Lynn Chadwick
‘Couple On Seat’ (1984 – Steel) by Lynn Chadwick

This is a classic ‘Chadwick’ piece, with both the male and female being of equal height and sculptured in Chadwick’s inimitable style. As an aside it was bought at auction in 2006 for £1.4 million. It is located in Cabot Square.

The second piece is by Henry Moore, entitled ‘Draped Seated Woman’ (1957-1958 – Bronze). The sculpture was purchased in 1962 under the London County Council’s Patronage of the Arts scheme for the Stifford Estate in Stepney.

‘Draped Seated Woman’ (1957-1958 - Bronze) by Henry Moore
‘Draped Seated Woman’ (1957-1958 – Bronze) by Henry Moore

In 1997, when the estate’s tower blocks were due to be demolished, the sculpture was moved for safe keeping to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2015 the new Mayor of Tower Hamlets pledged to bring back the sculpture to the Borough, and Cabot Square in Canary Wharf was chosen as a temporary home. The reinstatement of this important piece of the Borough’s artistic heritage was funded by The Canary Wharf Group on behalf of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The third and fourth pieces are by one of the most talented living sculptors you probably have never heard of – Charles Hadcock.

‘Hemisphere’ (2009 – Cast Iron) has combined characteristics of the sphere with that of the helix. The sphere is made in horizontal sections, which spin out of alignment within its skin, causing a curved and stepped distortion. Walking around the sculpture provides you with a multiplicity of gently changing shapes. It is located by Heron Quay Station.

‘Hemisphere’ (2009 - Cast Iron) by Charles Hadcock
‘Hemisphere’ (2009 – Cast Iron) by Charles Hadcock

‘Torsion II’ (2009-2011 – Cast Iron) has been described as being like a stairway to the stars. It is also cast iron and can be seen on Bank Street outside Jubilee Park.

Torsion II’ (2009-2011 - Cast Iron) by Charles Hadcock
Torsion II’ (2009-2011 – Cast Iron) by Charles Hadcock

Now where does the inspiration come from for these two works? In Charles Hadcock’s own words: “I was always very interested in casting as a process as that was very magical to me. The transformation of metal through fire sparked my imagination and it belonged to one of the oldest processes known to man. All of my research in various scrap yards around London had shown me the potential and raw appeal of manufactured multiples. These salvaged castings often had an intrinsic history and although their former function was unknown they had an enigmatic past that fascinated me. I remember turning a large scale cast panel over to reveal a textured surface that had been created by the pressure of the rock/ground imprinting itself into the metal. The memory of the rock has become compressed on the surface like a fossil. I started to research creating my own panels with rock textured surface on one side and the engineered practical side of the nuts and bolts on the other.”

Charles Hadcock is a polymath and a true British eccentric shunning the traditional way to progress as a sculptor. In my view his work is better for it. He is an engineer, mathematician and artist, and he actually makes all of his work himself. Now who else does that these days?!

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