Es Devlin and Google Will Add a Fluorescent Red Lion Sculpture to London's Trafalgar Square

Render of 'Feed the Lion'
Render of 'Feed the Lion' | © Es Devlin, courtesy of LDF
Photo of Charlotte Luxford
Architecture & Design Editor9 August 2018

During the London Design Festival in September, award-winning artist and designer Es Devlin will transform Trafalgar Square with her immersive sculpture Please Feed The Lions.

Es Devlin, well known for her kinetic set design work for the likes of Beyoncé, Kanye West and Lady Gaga, will create London Design Festival’s landmark project, which will appear overnight in Trafalgar Square on Monday, 17 September 2018.

A fifth lion will be added to the base of Nelson's Column, which was erected in the 19th century | © Es Devlin, courtesy of LDF

The pride of four lions sat at the base of Nelson’s Column will gain a fifth member in the form of a fluorescent red lion facing the National Gallery.

“The British design guru Sir John Sorrell nudged me as we walked through Trafalgar Square this time last year,” reveals Devlin. “He said: ‘Landseer never wanted those lions to look so passive: he proposed a much more animated stance, but Queen Victoria found it too shocking.’ The thought lodged in my mind. What if we could invest the lion with a crowd-sourced collective poetic voice?”

The lion will 'roar' a collective poem, created by the public | © Es Devlin, courtesy of LDF

Working with Google Arts & Culture, Devlin explored the parameters of AI and machine learning, with the interactive sculpture ‘roaring’ poetry created using words fed to it by the public.

During the day, the evolving poem will unfold on an LED screen embedded within the mouth of the lion. At night, the poem will be projection mapped onto the 175-year-old column at the heart of Trafalgar Square.

“We’re delighted to be able to support Es’s exploration of machine learning in her work and be part of her public artwork for London Design Festival,” said Google Arts & Culture’s Freya Murray. “Machine learning is helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face today, from healthcare to environmental conservation. This technology can also provide artists with a new set of tools. It’s exciting to see Es Devlin collaborating with machine learning to realise her vision for her first large-scale sculptural work.”

By night, the poem will be projected onto Nelson's Column | © Es Devlin, courtesy of LDF

Google will also create an online exhibition that will enable people all over the globe to view and experience the groundbreaking sculpture.

“The unique combination of cutting-edge machine learning and AI technology with traditional public sculpture will inspire, amaze and entertain audiences around the world as well as in Trafalgar Square, widening access and participation to both the arts and new technologies,” said Fiona Morris, CEO and founder of art organisation The Space, which is supporting the project.

London Design Festival 2018 will run from 15-23 September 2018 – find out more here.

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