What’s That Thing?(!)

EXPLORING LONDON’S PUBLIC ART with The Architecture Foundation

Whether grand public commissions, street graffiti or performed acts in civic space, public art is playing an ever more prominent and increasingly contested role in city-making. Embracing its potential for transforming and enhancing urban reputations; public bodies, private developers and regeneration consultants have all lept on the power of public art.  At best this work is popular, beautiful and compelling. At worst it is garish urban bling; costly, irrelevant and loathed.

In recent years, popular activist campaigns have admonished monuments to the flawed heroes of yesteryear, while some local authorities consider their weight in gold against the backdrop of ever squeezed budgets and the fear of litigation. While some revere others are left aghast, uniting all is a simple question ‘What’s That Thing?

Revisiting the passions stirred in 2017’s landmark debate with The Spectator, The London Ambler with AF presents a new season of bike rides and walkabouts for autumn 2018 exploring London’s bad, and brilliant, public art up close


01_WHAT’S THAT THING?(!) – Public Art Through East London (Bicycle tour)
Saturday 13 October, 14.00 – 17.00

In this first outing, The London Ambler heads out on two wheels with a bike tour exploring public art out on the streets and spaces of East London with a tour starting in Stoke Newington and weaving a route through Dalston, Hoxton, Bethnal Green and Stepney. Taking in postwar landmarks, community-led responses, flagship millennial commissions and corporate gifts, it explores the politics, practice and purpose of public art through the stories of London’s evolving and ever shifting inner city.




02_WHAT’S THAT THING?(!) – Public Art in The City of London
Saturday 10 November , 14.00 – 16.30

In this second event, The London Ambler heads through the heart of London’s financial district exploring how big money and prestige urban place shapers have used public art to aggrandise and embellish, but also to evoke memories of a City long since vanished and stir contemporary debate. Starting in the eastern fringe at Spitalfields, this walk takes in Broadgate, a game changer for its extensive public arts programme, before heading up to the Barbican, down to Paternoster Square and St Paul’s and finishing at the City’s new urban heart.