Art beyond walls and screens: outdoor art in the UK to beat lockdown blues

19 Nov 2020

by ArtRabbit | Sponsored

Make your daily allotment of outdoor exercise during lockdown more interesting with art installed in public spaces. Splashed on street corners, situated in parks, or else taking up space in front of civic buildings, you don’t have to wait until December to see these artworks.

The closure of venue doors due to COVID lockdown rules means a decent opportunity to stretch legs and hunt for art elsewhere. Lockdown 2.0 sure feels familiar, which means we’re better prepared this time. The importance of the lockdown for the sake of curbing COVID-19 infection rates means museums and galleries will be closed until December 2nd in the United Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean you have to go weeks without art. Make your daily allotment of outdoor exercise more interesting with art installed in public spaces. Splashed on street corners, situated in parks, or else taking up space in front of civic buildings, you don’t have to wait until December to see these artworks.

The Line, London

Richard Wilson's A Slice of Reality at Greenwich Peninsula, a slice of a cross-section of a ship, situated on a mossy beach against a blue sky with buildings in the background across the water.

Richard Wilson, A Slice of Reality, Greenwich Peninsula. Photography by Emily Jane Lovell.

For those in London, The Line is a dedicated public art walk that provides a series of ongoing artworks from some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Anish Kapoor, Thomson & Craighead and Larry Achiampong. Now in its 5th year, the works range from building-sized sculptures to sound installations, with many more on the docket to be revealed in the coming years.

Now available with the free Bloomberg Connects App is a digital guide to The Line, where legendary actor Bill Nighy takes you on a tour of the history, architecture and wildlife to be found along the route, making the journey as memorable and fulfilling as the art you set out to see. Also included are insights into the artworks as presented by the artists themselves and a Mindfulness Guide with three guided meditations for your route.

The Line broadly follows the line of the Greenwich Meridian, running from North Greenwich to Stratford, taking around three hours to walk. Too much exercise in one go? Visit different sections on different days, and revisit frequently. The art on The Line is always changing, as is the flora, fauna and cityscape with every season, making it a new experience each time.

Art on the Underground, London

Denzil Forrester's painting Brixton Blue, a stylistic imagery showing figures on the street including police officers, pedestrians and merchants, hanging above an escalator to the London Underground.

Denzil Forrester, Brixton Blue, 2019. Photography by Angus Mill. Commissioned by Art on the Underground. Copyright Denzil Forrester. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

When you’re headed out to hunt for some public art, you can make your journey and destination one and the same with Transport for London’s Art on the Underground initiative. With ongoing projects that situate art from acclaimed artists across the capital’s transportation network, you’ll be able to spot installations by Linder, conceptual art by Laure Prouvost, paintings by Denzil Forrester and so much more. Whilst some of these works can be found on the outside of stations, many more will be inside, so be sure to bring your face covering.

CIRCA, London

Birds-eye view of Piccadilly Square at night time, with the Piccadilly Lights screen depicting the words

CIRCA Presents Ai Weiwei, CIRCA 20:20, October 2020.

An incredibly timely project when so much of our culture resides in digital form or outdoors, CIRCA populates the iconic Piccadilly Lights screen with contemporary art by some of the world’s most renowned artists. Its inaugural project saw video clips by Ai Wei Wei that disrupted the advertisements on the screen for 120 seconds every day. On now is interdisciplinary filmmaker Cauleen Smith’s Covid Manifesto, streaming live at 20:20 GMT every day in November both in Piccadilly Square and online. They’ll be producing more cutting-edge art to be seen in this public, accessible place for the rest of 2021, so stay tuned.

Eva Rothschild's sculpture, My World And Your World, situated on green grass. The sculpture has multi-coloured and black stripes and spindly arms propping it up, like a spider or a rake. The sculpture has one pole that reaches out of frame from the image,

Eva Rothschild, My World And Your World, 2020.

For time-limited art to see outdoors, head to our dedicated feature list for outdoor art in London. Highlights include the Alexandra Palace Art Trail, the vibrant neons telling stories of Hindu mythology, Bollywood imagery, colonial history and personal memories for the Tate Britain Winter Commission by Chila Kumari Singh Burman which can be seen at the front of the Tate Britain, and various outdoor art installations to see via the Brent Biennial.

The Sculpture Park, Farnham

Mark Atoi's Staff of Light: a shiny silver geometric sculpture that is erect like a blade standing in browning grass, with one side reflecting the surroundings and another matt and silver.

Mark Atoi, Staff of Light, The Sculpture Park, Farnham.

Less than an hour Southwest of the M25 is where you’ll find the Sculpture Park, a lush display of eclectic sculptures by both renowned and emerging artists. 10 acres of greenery and water gardens hold more than 600 sculptures, situated amongst wildlife and woodland. The perfect day out for some tranquility and art, it costs £10 per adult, and dogs are welcome.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

Alfredo Jaar, The Garden of Good and Evil, a rusting metal cube sculpture situated on a hill of fallen leaves, with an opening that wraps around the sides of the structure, near the top.

Alfredo Jaar, The Garden of Good and Evil, 2017. Courtesy the artist, New York, a/political and YSP. Photography by Jonty Wilde.

Up near Wakefield is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where 500 impressive acres of land is home to more than 80 sculptures and rotating art exhibitions. Although their indoor exhibition spaces are currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, their open-air park is the ideal place for reconnecting with both nature and culture, getting lost across an estate of endless green and fresh views. Currently on view is Alfredo Jaar’s The Garden of Good and Evil in addition to works by Joana Vasconcelos and Damien Hirst, below:

Art in public spaces, Brighton

Esther Rolinson's Drift, a long public bench dotted with LED lights at night time.

Esther Rolinson, Drift, 2007.

Down in Brighton, you’ll see artworks in public places in the city’s every corner. Walk by the beach to find some sculptures, see light installations in underpasses, enjoy sound art in Churchill Square and more, all whilst breathing in some invigorating sea air. See where to find public art in Brighton here.

Henry Moore Studios & Gardens, Perry Green

Double Oval (1968-70) by Henry Moore. A sculpture by Henry Moore, resembling two concave boulders with a hole in the middle of each.

Henry Moore, Double Oval, 1966.

For those in Hertfordshire, the Henry Moore Gardens is now open on weekends throughout the second lockdown and until December 20th. With over 60 acres of green pastures and gardens to explore, along with more than 20 sculptures by Henry Moore, the café will be serving takeaway drinks to keep you warm as you roam the grassy grounds.

Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

Beast Alerted I, 1990, Courtesy of the Estate of Lynn Chadwick and Blain|Southern. The sculpture is geometric and silver, vaguely shaped like a dog sitting on its hind legs and turning its snout to the sky.

Lynn Chadwick, Beast Alerted I, 1990. Courtesy of the Estate of Lynn Chadwick and Blain|Southern. Photography by Jonty Wilde.

Whilst Sainsbury Centre in Norwich is closed following government guidelines for the second lockdown, visitors are still free to roam the grounds of the Sculpture Park, located on the University of East Anglia’s grounds. The 350 acres of land boasts art, architecture and nature, where you can stumble upon works by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick, Liliane Lijn and Antony Gormley.

More outdoor art via Art Freshers Guide

Yellow banner that says ArtRabbit Art Freshers' Guide to the Art World by ArtRabbit and Friends

For more tips on outdoor art from other cities in the UK, head to our Art Freshers Guide. For the 13 cities included, you’ll find freebies that include where outdoor and street art can be discovered.

What else?

This winter might bring with it exceptional circumstances, just as this entire year has, but our ability to adapt as well as arts and culture’s resilience has been proven time and again. Even as we come out of this second lockdown, outdoor spaces of art will be valuable for maintaining social distancing whilst offering repose from our cultural hunger. Whilst galleries and museums remain closed, the significance of public space for the exchange of culture is reasserted, reminding us that art does indeed live beyond walls.

When seeing outdoor art, do so only if it's safe for you and following government guidelines, and when art spaces are back open, see our guide on Visiting Museums and Galleries during COVID.