“There’s no doubt that London is the global centre of art today,” says our Sidestory guide and art expert, Edy Ferguson. “New York City once dominated the global art scene, but factors such as greed, commercialisation and an adversity to taking risks have changed its position.”
We meet Edy at Hyde Park’s Serpentine Pavilion. Most people think of Hyde Park as the green lung of inner-city London, but if you wander beyond its green lawns, colourful crowds and sparkling lidos, you’ll discover one of the city’s most revered creative spaces where art and architecture seamlessly meet: The Serpentine Galleries. Comprised of the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, these art hubs are a celebration of the world’s best contemporary art. In addition, every year over summer, an international architect is invited to design and build a temporary pavilion next to the Serpentine Gallery.
The 2017 Pavilion
The primary-blue-and-wooden pavilion standing before us was designed and constructed by Diébédo Francis Kéré, an award-winning, Berlin-based architect hailing from Burkina Faso. Edy explains that Kéré’s design was inspired by a tree around which village people would gather in his hometown of Gando. Inspired by the idea of connecting people to nature and to one another, Keré’s pavilion strikes me as refreshingly honest. His vast wooden roof mimics a tree canopy, while masterfully providing light and shelter from the elements. The blue base of the structure subtly integrates Lego-like African patterns and leads into a bright courtyard.
Edy leads the way into the Serpentine Gallery where we’re confronted with a completely different experience of contemporary art. The exhibition of the moment is by American artist, Wade Guyton, who uses digital technologies such as the iPhone to create a variety of artworks.
It’s a far cry from Kéré’s grounded approach. I consider the lack of soul in Guyton’s work, as we walk past large-scale prints that reflect pixels, hangers and recurring skyscrapers. Edy delves into how the art industry in New York has evolved and how it’s become increasingly money-centric. I get the sense that she’s not a big fan of Guyton’s work.
Serpentine Sackler Gallery
We conclude our art walk at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery to see Torbjørn Rødland’s photographic exhibition. Originally from Norway, Rødland is known for portraits, still-lifes and landscapes that succeed in disrupting the realm of everyday life.
There’s a photograph of a young girl about to bite into an apple filled with coins, another of an anonymous hand wrapped in an octopus’ tentacle and yet another of someone holding up a phone with a picture of Anne Frank (perhaps a comment on selfie culture).
Before parting ways, I join Edy for a cup of coffee at the gallery’s café. We discuss the role of contemporary art in a modern context and how the industry has evolved. On my cycle home through leafy Hyde Park, I’m once again amazed by the rich everyday experiences of London.
Check out my article on First Impressions of London.
See the 2018 Pavilion
Mexican architect Friday Escobedo is the chosen designer for the 2018 summer Serpentine Pavilion. She’ll be the youngest architect yet to design a pavilion since its launch in 2000 and the second selected woman, after Zaha Hadid who designed the 2000 pavilion. Read more about Escobedo’s pavilion here.
SideStory offers highly curated creative and cultural experiences. A SideStory Experience is more than a walking tour: it is an itinerary crafted and led by a local expert. Sidestory experiences are unique because the itineraries are carefully put together by insiders – the most knowledgeable and connected locals.
Join Edy for her 3-hour tour on Defining Contemporary Art at the Serpentine. The tour includes a visit to both of the Serpentine Galleries, in-depth commentary and refreshments. Find out more here.