Regent’s Place is the sizeable office and retail quarter built a few years ago bordering Euston Road and Hampstead Road. If you’re not local, or don’t work round these parts, you’ll still, at some point, have sailed past its shiny new buildings on the bus up to Camden or Kentish Town.
The other day, with an hour spare at midday, I followed the recently installed art trail using the handy map (find it here). It’s actually pretty addictive when you get going, especially as such a leisurely pursuit is in marked contrast to the legions of office workers hunting down that all-important lunchtime sandwich.
First off? Gary Hume’s Pecking Bird (above), a large-scale 20-panel work which stands an impressive 17 metres off the ground. The captivating image, with its child-like greens, yellows and blues – not to mention pink beak – is visible from viewpoints around like Tottenham Court Road and Warren Street (and, of course, the top of the bus). It playfully sets the tone for the rest of the trail.
Using the map, it’s easy to work your way southwest around the campus. The next work is very different: a striking 19th century sculpture that many people appear oblivious to. Called The Battle of St Vincent, it’s a vast white marble frieze depicting the surrender of Spanish admiral Don Francisco Xavier Winthuysen in 1797, one of two high carvings intended to form part of a triumphal arch commissioned by George IV. While the project was never completed, a scaled down version became Marble Arch; other bits were used in the facades of both the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace.Next up are two very different works juxtaposed around Triton Square Mall. At its entry is a piece by Siôn Parkinson, whose bright yellow railings are displayed in Longford Street. Meanwhile, in the nearby tunnel is Damien Hirst contemporary Liam Gillick’s brightly coloured transparent Perspex panels, with quotes from writers furnishing surrounding walls. It’s atmospheric – and again, offers up a mischievous sense of fun.
Julian Opie was a big star in the nineties and noughties – he designed the cover artwork of Blur’s Best Of CD – and his Ruth Walking in Jeans, installed above a plaza, is created by a series of LED lights, a sort of intriguing attempt to distract the minds of those pre-occupied by their daily lives.
Around the corner is one of the most famous artists on show – and the trail’s absolute must-see. Gormley’s Reflection comprises two figures (modelled on himself) standing opposite each other, one inside and one outside on 350 Euston Road. It’s a thoughtful work on identity, and the idea of quiet reflection. Perfectly placed, then, on what must be one of the UK’s busiest roads.Several of the pieces are in reception areas of the offices, but don’t let that put you off. Aarah Morris’ Department South – a colourful hard-edge geometric grid – feels as stylized as the TV show Mad Man in its modern atrium; while Gary Webb’s nearby Approach Split is more engaging with the passer-by, with its shiny rectangles of mirror.
Different again are the two statues, Sir Michael and Sir George, sculpted by Thomas Brock and once displayed in the Stock Exchange, now just inside One Osnaburgh Street. After the war they were damaged and put into storage, before being resurrected here, close to where Brock had his studio at the turn of the 20th century.
Finally, The Pavilion by Carmody Groarke makes for a hauntingly atmospheric end to the trail. An eight-metre high series of vertical steel rods support a canopy above, and shimmer in the sunlight; or, at night, are uplit, the effect magical.
In short? It’s indulgently pleasurable to stop, look up and ponder – amidst the hectic pace of a very modern London development.
More info on the art trail can be found here.