Stella Ioannou is the Artistic Director of Sculpture in the City and Director of Lacuna.
The long summer days and warmer weather make August one of the best months to venture into the city and discover its treasure-trove of outdoor public art and exhibitions.
Why not start by coming into the City to see Sculpture in the City and also check out a beautiful show by Christian Ovonlen, winner of the 2022 Craft Council award, inspired by early 20th century Russian ballet. Theatrical at 99 Bishopsgate is on until mid-September and inspired by the boundary-pushing ideas of Serghei Diaghilev, the founder and director of the Avant-Garde company Ballet Russes, which transformed the dance world in Paris and beyond. Ovonlen seeks to visualise the sensorial experience of music, costume and performance in his ornate fabrics and find print drawings.
One of the most eye-catching pieces at this year’s Summer Show at the Royal Academy, is Kathleen Ryan’s luxuriously bejewelled and slightly mouldy, Bad Lemon. It sits within the Architecture Room, playfully co-curated by artist Rana Begum and architect Niall McLaughlin. For those wanting to see more of Ryan’s work, the American artist is the star of a new solo show at Josh Lilley Gallery, just a few miles east. The deceptively tactile pieces draw upon the American vernacular: inspired by abundance, trinkets, hobbies and leisure.
Outside in the RA’s Annenberg courtyard is Cristina Iglesias’s unmissable installation, Wet Labyrinth (with Spontaneous Landscape) on display until 21 August. The large-scale immersive artwork takes the form of labyrinth-like chambers of natural and artificial materials and provides a bucolic sanctuary in the heart of Piccadilly. Whilst you are in the area, it is worth dropping into Gagosian’s Davies Street Gallery to view Iglesias’s Entwined and Growth series of aluminium-cast walls of densely-textured foliage.
The Hayward Gallery’s most recent blockbuster exhibition In the Black Fantastic (on view until 18 September) explores the legacy of Afrofuturism and features 11 contemporary artists from the African diaspora. Stand out pieces include Nick Cave’s diamante costume soundsuit and Cauleen Smith’s film pieces imagining transcendent landscapes. It’s exciting to see the brutalist landmark of the Southbank Centre showcasing the art and artists of the future.
Don’t miss Adam Shield’s series of ‘spatial collages’ for The Showroom mural commission – the latest artwork to activate the facade of this thriving contemporary art space in Marylebone. Inside The Showroom, you can enjoy Shield’s collection of printed collages which draw upon the gallery’s long-standing collaborative research in the local neighbourhood and its histories of radical community print groups. Adam is also running a series of poster workshops which I will definitely be attending!
Make sure to drop into one of my favourite buildings in London, Senate House, to experience Art Angel’s latest commission: A thousand words for weather. The writer Jessica J. Lee has collaborated with seven other London-based poets (of different mother-tongues) to generate a multilingual weather dictionary that articulates our collective experience of the climate crisis. The resulting sound piece can be discovered across three floors of the library as discrete audio installations.
And finally, I’m delighted to share that Sculpture Week London will be launching this September in coordination with the opening of Frieze Sculpture and the new Fourth Plinth commission by Samson Kambalu, running alongside the 11th edition of Sculpture in the City. Keep your eyes peeled for our programme announcement this month!