12 January 2010

Bikeable art on Blackfriars Bridge (and in a pub)

Blackfriars Bridge is an art gallery until September. Sort of.

During extensive building works (which have caused trouble for cyclists in the past, and still do), Network Rail are displaying four specially commissioned artworks, depicting local views, on the hoardings on the downriver side of the bridge (right).

It claims to be 'arguably London's longest and most viewed outdoor art exhibition, with a 246m hoarding line acting as a new gallery space'.

Hmm. The use of the word 'arguable' is arguable. Cyclists are just about the only people who can appreciate them. Pedestrians can't: there's no footway on the artwork side, and pedestrians on the other one are too far away to see anything.

And obviously traffic is moving too fast, and isn't allowed to stop on the double-reds. (Unless you're a can with a private hire badge, in which case you can obviously stop anywhere you damn well like.)

All you see from inside a passing vehicle is four horizontal smudges: Blaaafffrrrrbrr, by David Paskett; Blaaaabrriiloongee, by John Duffin; Shaaerrlloee, by Mychael Barratt; and Firrlllaafarrr, by Gail Brodholt (right).

On a bike, though, you can stop in reasonable safety.

But there's an alternative. All four paintings are on display (right, also until September) in the Founder's Arms. That's the modern pub right on the riverside a couple of canvases upriver from Tate Modern, with rather nice riverside views (below right). There's a couple of bike racks by the upriver entrance, and unlimited railing space.

Look closely on one of the paintings (John Duffin's), and you can see a couple of cyclists (right). They are not busting red lights, not cycling on the pavement, and are probably real cyclists because they're not wearing helmets. Shame about the lack of mudguards and panniers though.

The project was done in conjunction with Bankside Gallery, which is immediately behind the pub. Inside you can see more work by the artists. I could only find one pic with a bike in it, though, and that was a humorous pictorial catalogue by Barratt called 'Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover'.

Art on bridges, art in pubs, excuses to cycle... we rather like the whole idea, actually.


  1. Pleased to see that someone has actually paid some attention to the show.
    The blurry image third down is my linocut, First Light at Farringdon - the photo is great, really made me laugh...
    Enjoyed the post, thanks.

  2. Thanks for that, Gail. (I've amended the post to identify your painting.)

    You can see a photo of Gail's piece from a stationary viewpoint at the fine Londonist website.