Top 9 Modern Sculptures In London

By M@
Top 9 Modern Sculptures In London

Getting an outdoor dose of art in London is easier than you might think. Among the city's parks, gardens, squares and streets are a range of freebie sculptures worth seeking out. Here are our favourite nine pieces from the past 100 years (we're being flexible with the terms 'modern' and 'British', by the way) — add them to your list to seek out once social distancing restrictions have been lifted, and in the mean time, ogle them through your screen.

9. Homage To Leonardo by Enzo Plazzotta (1982, Belgrave Square)

Best modern sculptures in London: Enzo Plazzotta's Homage to Leonardo
Photo by Wally Gobetz via the Londonist Flickrpool.

One of the lesser known pieces in this selection, but worth factoring in on your wander. Like the Newton sculpture of his near namesake Eduardo Paolozzi, Plazotta's Vitruvian Man in leafy Belgrave Square has also lifted a great work of two-dimensional art into sculptural form — in this case, Leonardo's Da Vinci's study of the male form. It's hidden away somewhat as the square is normally accessible only to key holders. However, you can get a reasonable gawp from outside the railings, and the square is normally open to the public during the annual Open Garden Squares Weekend (though the 2020 event has been postponed).  Plazotta also made that nice ballet dancer on Drury Lane, and the leaping Jeté figure near Tate Britain.

8. Single Form by Barbara Hepworth (1962, Battersea Park)

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No roundup of modern art would be complete without a mention of Babs. Her piece in Battersea Park is a stonking piece of bronze over 10 feet high. It's typical bottle-opener Hepworth, and looks perfectly at home beside the lakeside topiary. The cast is a memorial to her friend Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General who died in a plane crash in 1961. Another piece by the great lady can be found in Dulwich Park, and that angel-like object pinned to the side of John Lewis is also her handiwork.

7. Rush Hour by George Segal (1983, Broadgate)

George Segal's Rush Hour sculpture is one of our favourite piece's of modern art in London
The stern faces of the head down commuters, by George Segal, fittingly located just outside Liverpool Street station.

An important piece in the architectural wonderland that is Broadgate. Segal's bronze shows six melancholy figures striding away from the UBS building. Perhaps they've just received their P45s. It's a bleak grouping, but neatly symbolises the daily drudge of the woebegone financial services professional. (Note, this sculpture was temporarily removed from Broadgate in January 2020 but will return shortly).

6. Couple on Seat by Lynn Chadwick (1984, Canary Wharf)

Lynn Chadwick created one of London's best modern art sculptures - Couple On Seat
Photo by arjyKlondon via the Londonist Flickrpool.

And what a couple. Why the rhombic and pyramidal noggins? Is it a subtle distillation of the countless meetings taking place around Cabot Square at any given time? He's thinking inside the box. She has a point. We don't know, but the work is typical of the London-born artist, whose misshapen bronze humanoids can be found around the world. It's also good for impromptu orgies, apparently. A few years back, another of Chadwick's sculptures was stolen from Roehampton University.

5. Two piece bronze Reclining Figure No 3 by Henry Moore (1961, Kennington)

Britain's most famous sculptor is well represented in the capital — view our map of Henry Moore's London here. But we've chosen his bronze double-act in the middle of Kennington's Brandon Estate because... well, it's in the middle of Kennington's Brandon Estate. The housing development was also home to Rose Tyler and family in Dr Who.

4. Fulcrum by Richard Serra (1987, Broadgate)

Fulcrum by Richard Serra is one of the best modern sculptures in London
Photo by Sally H via the Londonist Flickrpool

Mutually supporting girders might not be everyone's idea of artistic harmony, but there's no denying that Richard Serra's contribution to Broadgate is powerful. Especially when you consider that these three hunks of steel aren't welded together and balance menacingly above the head of anyone bold enough to venture inside. But such is the sheer brute strength of this piece, you feel it would be the only thing left standing this side of Brian Blessed, should the world suffer a nuclear exchange.

3. Madonna and Child by Jacob Epstein (1952, Cavendish Square)

Epstein's Madonna and Child is one of his most striking, and less controversial, sculptures in London
Photo by Matt Brown

Architectural bad boy Jacob Epstein caused many a ruckus with his nudey sculptures on 55 Broadway and Zimbabwe House. Less controversial was this elegant work on the entrance to the convent of the Holy Child Jesus in Cavendish Square.

2. Lioness and Lesser Kudu by Jonathan Kenworthy (1993, Grosvenor Gardens)

Powerful and energetic, this Jonathan Kenworthy sculpture is easily one of London's finest
Photo by Guy Tyler via the Londonist Flickrpool.

Unlike most of the sculptors in this list, Kenworthy tends to deal in lifelike forms rather than abstract or representative art. In particular, he's noted for his animal sculptures, of which several can be found around town. This one in upper Grosvenor Gardens is easily his best. Were it in Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square, it would surely be celebrated as one of London's finest sculptures. For those who know, however, this powerful study of African fauna, bronze in tooth and claw, is a local landmark. Sit on a bench with a venison sandwich and contemplate the fate of that poor kudu.

1. Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi (1995, British Library)

Best modern sculptures in London: Paolozzi outside the British Library
We love the Paolozzi sculpture outside The British Library.

Paolozzi has perhaps more works of public sculpture around London than any other artist, so much so that we've gone and mapped 'em all. You've probably seen his murals at Tottenham Court Road station, or his mechanical head near the Design Museum. But his most iconic piece has to be the hunched-over statue of Isaac Newton outside the British Library. The natural philosopher's stooping form is lifted from a drawing by William Blake. The mixing of artist and scientist is an appropriate symbol for the library he stands in front and on top of.

Wot, no Gormley? This list is based purely on personal whimsy and acknowledges that there are many other fine works around town. Let us know your favourites in the comments below.

Last Updated 24 October 2023