International real estate developer, Tishman Speyer, celebrates the re-opening of the former Economist Plaza with the launch of a new public sculpture installation by Swiss artist, Olaf Breuning, in collaboration with CASS Sculpture Foundation and Metro Pictures, New York and curated by Encounter Contemporary. The iconic plaza, which will upon opening be renamed as ‘The Smithson Plaza’, has a long history of showcasing public artworks of leading established and emerging artists, including Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. The exhibition will mark the completion of the first phase of renovations at 23-27 St James’s Street and the re- launch of a dynamic contemporary arts programme, which was originally established in 1964.
Breuning has been selected as the first artist to be showcased in the public arts programme with a selection of five life-size sculptures with audacious and eye-catching messages, set to be unveiled to the public on 7th June. Breuning, who has previously exhibited in venues from Palais de Tokyo to MOMA, is acclaimed for his diverse and bold works, manifesting his messages through multifarious medias. Known as an experimentalist, his work intelligently explores pertinent aspects of contemporary society, incorporating language and absurdist humour to speak directly to its audiences.
Each stainless steel sculpture stands at approximately six feet tall with cut-outs of mirrored cartoonish heads mounted on scaffold supports and filled with a thought or speech bubble. The contents of each bubble range from text stating ‘Much Too Much Just Too Much’ to instantly recognisable symbols such as the thumbs-up or a heart. Reflective comments on the conditions of daily contemporary life are conveyed through bold, yet simple forms in a similar style to graphic novels.
Breuning repurposes and playfully adopts the iconography and experience of popular culture capturing and reflecting on a generation that is obsessed with the internet. The ‘heads’ will take up home in the plaza as a comment on society’s fast-paced, overwhelming and media-driven contemporary existence. The hope is the installation will encourage passer- bys to take a few minutes away from their busy schedules and our hyper-connected, technological world and enjoy a few moments of reflection.
Olaf Breuning comments: “The heads reflect their surrounding and speak in a simplified emoji language. Our time seems to be ever more complicated, with a lot more information reflecting on us. This makes it understandable that we, simply just do not have the time to make detailed and thoughtful statements in such a fast moving world. “i like” or “i dont like” – it’s just enough for the moment. However, having said that, “i like” that the heads will be shown in London!”
Dan Nicholson, Managing Director of Tishman Speyer UK, said: “The activation of the plaza is an integral part of our strategy to reposition Smithson Plaza as a best-in-class West End office destination and we are very pleased to display Olaf Breuning’s works for our first show. We look forward to unveiling this architectural icon and the art to the public in the near future.”
A major exhibition of Breuning’s works is currently at the CASS Sculpture Foundation in Chichester until 2 September 2018, and features Clouds, six monumental cartoonish steel sculptures in hues of bright blue installed within the sculpture park, and Scrap Faces, surreal faces made from salvaged wood sourced from West Sussex, in the main gallery.
The Smithson Plaza will re-open on 7th June and architects Alison and Peter Smithson’s original intent for the plaza as a public social space will be restored, also reinstating a centre-stage for public exhibitions in the capital.
All exhibited works are available for sale. To purchase any of the works, please contact Misha Curson, Deputy Director of CASS Sculpture Foundation on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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