For years I've been fascinated by the extraordinary amount of artwork that exists, hidden from public view, residing in storage. Across the country, warehouses - like Aladdin's caves - would make rich pickings for any exhibition. Such a small percentage of artwork has the opportunity for exhibition at any one time and I wanted to think of a creative way to look at that wonderland, with a view to presenting it in a new and interesting context.
I met urban regeneration expert Clive Dutton in 2012. At the time, he was the Executive Director for Regeneration in Newham - the London borough that was at the heart of the 2012 Olympics. Clive would regularly come to private views at my gallery in the West End and I wanted to find out more about the work that he was doing in the East End. I went to meet him at the council's offices and was blown away by the scale of development and investment in the area and the vision for its future. Clive pointed out that place-making is the key to any successful development and we agreed that culture is the DNA of any place. I asked Clive if I could present an idea that was compatible with his existing work in regeneration. The idea that I presented was The Line (although it was Clive who pointed out that the route of our proposed walk follows the Meridian). The Line will be a world-class sculpture walk that will link East London's two iconic tourist destinations - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the O2 Arena. Clive and I have since set up a Community Interest Company to make it all happen. Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger has lent his enthusiastic support and the project has now gathered significant momentum.
The idea of a sculpture walk, as opposed to a park, is that it links places - it isn't a contained space that has boundaries and rules. One of the great appeals of bringing work outside is that it democratises its presentation. People don't have to go to a gallery or a museum, instead they can discover artwork while on a walk, a run, or a cycle. A walk is also free for everyone. My idea was for a permanent, yet changing, outdoor exhibition of existing artwork. It is a way of shining a light on the world-class sculpture that is currently unavailable for public view. As the idea isn't to commission work, it's possible for the project to be delivered at an accelerated pace. It is also comparatively low-cost to realise - it's important to be resourceful in these times of austerity!
We are looking to site around twenty sculptures along the waterways of East London (subject to funding, we plan to install ten works in 2014 and the same again in 2015). Works will be sited on the walkways around the Greenwich Peninsula (next to the Thames), at the western end of the Royal Docks (where the cable car lands) and then following the River Lea and canals from Cody Dock to Stratford and the Olympic Park. I have lived in London my whole life but only recently discovered this area. The proposed sculpture walk provides a fresh perspective on the city, offering rarely seen views of Canary Wharf, spectacular Victorian gasholders, and a walk past the largest tidal mill in the world; whilst also taking in rare reed beds and wildlife, including kingfishers and herons. The walk will link two of London's most significant sites in recent history: Richard Roger's Millennium Dome (the O2 Arena) and the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The Line will be for everyone, so we need everyone to get involved to make it possible. We have launched a crowdfunding campaign to get the project off the ground. Individuals and organisations can support the campaign by pledging £2 or more via www.spacehive.com/theline. Clive and I are working around the clock to deliver the project this summer, but it is only possible if we raise the necessary funds - we need to reach our crowdfunding target of £146,000 by 28th March 2014. Please support the project if you can. For more information about The Line, please visit www.the-line.org and watch our short film here.