Award winning artist, Ryan Gander OBE, has been appointed to deliver a landmark public artwork for Elephant Park in the London Borough of Southwark, conceived and developed with the local community.
This autumn Ryan Gander started working with the South London Gallery on a series of workshops for local school children that will bring together their playfulness and imagination to co-create the form of the final artwork. This final work may have several elements at different locations, forming a trail around the park – a new two-acre green space in London’s Zone One – for existing and future communities and visitors to the area to discover and enjoy.
Ryan Gander was invited to the role following a curatorial process led by the Contemporary Art Society. He has an established international reputation for artworks that materialise in many different forms, ranging from sculpture, apparel and writing to architecture, painting, publications and performance. His public commissions are diverse in material, placement and outlook and always cite the space as the initial seedling for the idea and overall concept.
Ryan Gander says: “Elephant & Castle has always been a really special part of London, through all its historic iterations. When we think about place we often think about ‘as it is’ or ‘as it was’, but seldom do we envisage para-possible futures, what a place ‘could be’. This form of ‘Imagineering’ takes great cognitive ingenuity and inventiveness, and so it seemed really apparent and fitting to me that working with those with the most active imaginations and those who know the place the best – namely the young people who live in the area – would be the most catalytic approach.”
The commission is supported by Lendlease and Southwark Council, who are jointly delivering Elephant Park, the £2.5bn regeneration project in Elephant & Castle. Around half the site is devoted to public and green space, including a two-acre park, public squares and pocket gardens, the new Walworth Library and Southwark Heritage Centre and future community spaces still under construction. The project is breathing new life into this special part of Central London and the new artwork will form a memorable feature for local communities and visitors.
Kristy Lansdown, Lendlease Project Director for Elephant Park, commented: “When designing Elephant Park, we have always been hyper aware of the value that public spaces bring to a local community, and have strived to create an environment around our buildings that is inclusive, relaxing and inspirational. It is exciting that the next generation of Southwark’s community has the opportunity to help shape this landscape by working alongside Ryan.”
Councillor Helen Dennis, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development, says: “We’re thrilled that pupils from local primary schools have the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from one of the UK’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. Their final artwork will sit in the heart of the community, inspiring others and telling their story for years to come.”
Megan O’Shea, Senior Art Producer, Contemporary Art Society Consultancy says: “We’re really delighted to be working with Ryan on this commission. His experience in the public realm and enthusiasm for working with young people open up exciting possibilities for future art in Elephant Park.”
Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery adds: “Ryan’s proposal was outstanding in its involvement of children in the development and co-creation of a new permanent art work for Elephant Park. Engaging children and our local communities in creativity is at the very heart of the SLG’s ethos so we are delighted to be able to extend our work with schools and artists to collaborate on this exciting project.”
About Elephant Park
Elephant Park is a new residential and retail area for South London located in the historic area of Elephant & Castle. Offering the convenience of living in Zone one and centred around a new park, the development unites creative independents, inventive local food traders from the far corners of the world, and high street gems alongside a spirit of fun and adventure. Elephant Park will offer 3,000 new homes when completed in 2025, with space for over 50 new shops, restaurants and cafés and planting over 1,200 new trees. Elephant Park is just moments from Elephant & Castle Underground and Rail Stations, to the East of Walworth Road, breathing new life into this historic area and creating thousands of high-quality new homes, jobs, business opportunities and green space for Londoners.
As an artist who has been practising for over two decades, Ryan Gander has developed a wealth of experience operating with multiple internationally recognised institutions, such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), dOCUMENTA (13) (Kassel), and the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. His works are featured in both international public and private collections including the Tate Collection and Arts Council Collection in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée D’Art Contemporain De Montréal, and the National Museum of Art in Japan. Gander has delivered a diverse set of public artworks and commissions since 2010, for the likes of Public Art Fund (New York), Futurecity (London) and Artangel (London).
South London Gallery
The South London Gallery (SLG) was founded in the 19th century by philanthropist William Rossiter to ‘bring art to the people of South London’. Today the gallery comprises its original site at 65 Peckham Road; the Fire Station which opened to the public in 2018; Art Block, a space for local children and families on Sceaux Gardens Estate and two permanent gardens. The SLG has an international reputation for its contemporary art exhibitions by established, mid-career and younger artists and programme of film and performance events. Its highly regarded, free education programme includes a peer-led young people’s forum; family workshops; artist-led projects and commissions on local housing estates; and a BBC Children in Need-funded programme for looked after children.
Contemporary Art Society Consultancy
The CAS has provided art advisory services for a diverse range of clients and sectors for over 30 years. Their consultancy team curates and manage art projects in a range of contexts and environments, working with outstanding artists to produce contemporary art collections, art strategies and public art commissions. With a history of identifying promise amongst early career artists, their projects and strategies contribute to the cultural life of our towns and cities. Consultancy fees support the organisation’s charitable mission: to develop public collections across the UK for the benefit of audiences everywhere.