The Line, the capital’s first dedicated contemporary sculpture walk, will extend to London City Island next year. It’s co-founder, Megan Piper, explains its significance for the area.
How did you become involved in setting up a dedicated sculpture walk?
I set up The Line with a friend, Clive Dutton, who at the time was head of regeneration at Newham Council. I went to talk to him about what was going on in East London post-Olympics and what the future looked like for the area and we got talking about a sculptural strategy and vision outside of the Olympic Park.
When he retired in 2013 we decided to join forces and set up The Line. We worked together for about 18 months but sadly he passed away two weeks after we opened. Originally we called it ‘Inside Outside’, bringing works that were squirreled away, hidden from public view in warehouses and artists’ studios to bring them outside so that they could be enjoyed by everyone.
What’s the route of the The Line?
The project very loosely follows the line of the Greenwich Meridian, running north-south, which is why it’s called The Line, bookended by the Olympic Park and the O2. All of the work is sited next to water so the route follows the River Lea and the canals, and then goes into the Royal Docks and then we have works along the Thames Path by the O2, linked of course by the cable car. And when we launch at London City Island, you’ll be able to join there and head up towards the Olympic Park. It’s going to be a three to four hour walk - depending on how fit you are!
How many works of art are we talking about?
At the moment, there are about 11 but we’re aiming for about 30, establishing the line as an art walk with some exciting plans for the next couple of years which include extending The Line to London City Island by the end of next year, to be timed when English National Ballet and The London Film School move there.
It’s all outdoors, so the whole idea is that it’s free, open and accessible for everyone to enjoy. Eventually we want to include other mediums beyond sculpture, including film, perhaps performance, making use of indoor gallery spaces and to run an exhibition programme.
Why did you choose this part of London?
It really grew out of my relationship with Clive and his knowledge and experience in the area, being a figure who was really appreciated locally and who could make introductions to various local organisations and groups. At Newham, he had already generated a map plotting locations that might be possible to site sculpture.
How have the works been selected?
The first works came from an open submission where we invited artists and galleries and private collections to propose works which came before a selection panel, which I chaired but included the Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger, a local resident, a critic and a curator. For the local resident, we proposed Simon Myers, who lives on the river and runs Cody Docks, just north of LCI, which is an inspiring example of community regeneration with over 3,000 volunteers through their doors, clearing a disused dock and establishing community gardens, a café, an art school and gallery.
Now I have two curators, Susie Allen and Laura Culpan, who run Artwise, and they are leading the long term curatorial vision for the project for the 2017/18 programme. We generally borrow works for two to three years, and they have to be robust, outdoor works that are suitable to being outdoors in the public realm. But it is really the curators that make that selection and not me.
Susie and Laura have been going 20 odd years in commissioning work in the public realm, curating a large number of exhibitions, they have developed corporate collections, acquiring works and working very closely with artists and have an extensive network to engage in the project.
What about the plan to have an artist in residence?
Yes - it’s still being defined by Ballymore with Susie and Laura but it is fantastic that there will be an artist in residence programme running at London City Island. It will provide an artist with a unique opportunity to work in a stimulating environment of huge urban transformation with a focussed period of studio practice in that vicinity.
What do you do to relax?
I read books, and I like outdoor swimming. I’m an ambassador for Thames Baths as a committed outdoor swimmer. The organisation is about proposed lidos along the River Thames. But at the moment I go to Brockwell Lido and Parliament Hill. It’s very cold but I love it, it’s invigorating.
What artists do you think we’ll be talking about in 2017?
I think we are going to be hearing a lot about Helen Marten, this year’s winner of the Turner Prize and the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, especially as she has said she will be sharing her prize money with her fellow nominees. I think it will encourage a new way of thinking about art prizes in 2017.
Finally, what advice do you have for budding art dealers?
Spend as much time as possible going to private shows, travelling to international art fairs, viewing work of artists, going to their studios, going to galleries, museums and commercial galleries but chiefly seeing as many art fairs as you can handle.