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Damien Hirst, 'Sensation', 2003 | Lok Pycock
Damien Hirst, 'Sensation', 2003 | Lok Pycock
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The Best Public Art to See in East London

Picture of Holly Black
Updated: 22 August 2017
With its borders on The City and the massive regeneration projects that typified the 2012 Olympics, East London plays host to an eclectic mix of public sculpture, featuring everything from technicolor playgrounds to gigantic steel structures.

ArcelorMittal Orbit – Anish Kapoor, 2012

The country’s largest sculpture was commissioned after an open call for artist submissions to coincide with the 2012 Olympics. This enormous structure features a viewing deck and the world longest slide, designed by the German artist Carsten Höller, who is known for his interest in the concept of play. This unusual addition was added after construction, at the request of Kapoor, and has turned this work of art into a hugely successful tourist attraction.

ArcelorMittal Orbit viewed from Stratford High Street
ArcelorMittal Orbit viewed from Stratford High Street | by Cmglee

The Line Public Art Walk

This modern and contemporary art walking tour follows the waterways of East London, featuring works by prolific artists such as Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley and Martin Creed. The trail covers Greenwich Peninsula, the Royal Docks and the River Lea, and is constantly evolving with new works and projects.

Damien Hirst, Sensation, 2003
Damien Hirst, Sensation, 2003 | Lok Pycock

Traffic Light Tree – Pierre Vivant, 1995-8

Featuring 75 sets of traffic lights it may look like the world’s worst junction, but is actually the work of artist Pierre Vivant. This flamboyant public installation was originally unveiled in Westferry, before being found a new home in Canary Wharf. The flashing lights are designed to reflect the ‘never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities’ but have often incited complaints from drivers who find it thoroughly baffling.

Pierre Vivant, Traffic Light Tree, 1988
Pierre Vivant, Traffic Light Tree, 1988 | © Mike T Photography

Fulcrum – Richard Serra, 1987

Richard Serra is known for his gargantuan sculptures, but this piece is especially remarkable because it fits in a relatively small space while still maintaining a mammoth presence, as it towers into the sky. To passers-by it might seen that the structure has seen better days, but it is actually made from a special non-degenerative steel that builds rust, but does not decay. The name means ‘to balance’ and the five enormous sheets of metal do appear to be precariously leaning against each other, as if they could topple at any moment.

Richard Serra, Fulcrum, 1987
Richard Serra, Fulcrum, 1987 | by Oxyman

I Goat – Kenny Hunter, 2010

At the entrance to Spitalfields market you can find this unusual depiction of a goat standing on a pile of crates. The work won the inaugural Spitalfields Sculpture Prize in 2010 and recalls the rich industrial history of the area, as well as using the image of a stubborn animal to represent the area’s non-conformist attitude.

I Goat by Kenny Hunter, 2010
I Goat by Kenny Hunter, 2010 | by Eluveitie

Couple on a Seat – Lynn Chadwick, 1984

Lynn Chadwick worked as an architectural draftsman before he took up sculpture following the end of the Second World War. He began to produce pieces featuring couples later in his career, as a testament to enduring, universal love – many of which are now on public display around the world. This work was part of the Talking Statues project in 2014, where actors were invited to perform fictitious narratives written from the perspective of the sculptures.

Couple on Seat by Lynn Chadwick, Cabot Square, Canary Wharf in March 2011
Couple on Seat by Lynn Chadwick, Cabot Square, Canary Wharf in March 2011 | © Chris McKenna

Squeaky Clean – Gary Webb, 2012

This bizarre colourful playground was commissioned as part of Frieze Projects East, an initiative designed to bring interactive sculpture to the newly built Olympic Park. The work features colourful organic forms cast from resin and steamed wood, which have been used to adorn modular, everyday leisure equipment. Unsurprisingly the bright colour palette and Flintstones style aesthetics have made the work a huge hit with local children.

Squeaky Clean by Gary Webb
Squeaky Clean by Gary Webb | Courtesy of Frieze