Spotlight: Central LDN WMN
In the mood for some free public art this weekend? We’ve been helping to curate, produce and install LDN WMN across the capital, taking the form of 20 original pieces of art honouring 20 unsung women who have contributed to history. Each of the artworks has been installed in the place where the women lived or contributed, and we’ve been honoured to have worked with Tate Collective and City Hall on commissioning 20 incredible women and non-binary artists to create the works.
Here we spotlight the art you can see in Central London and the surrounding areas, but you can find more information on london.gov.uk/ldnwmn about all the artworks.
Dame Myra Hess by CJ Mahony, Charing Cross Station
CJ Mahony celebrates Dame Julia Myra Hess’s morale-raising use of music during the Second World War in this multi-media artwork. For six years without fail, the British pianist organised weekday lunchtime concerts to raise London’s spirits. In total, she staged 1,860 showcases to “give spiritual solace to those who are giving all to combat the evil”. Mahony’s piece is a visual and sound intervention for Charing Cross Station, which will allow a moment of contemplation in the hustle and bustle of the busy station. Pianist Hannah Quinn will appear for a special live performance at the station, playing pieces by Beethoven and Mendelssohn that Hess would have chosen for her own performances. Visual pieces will take over parts of Charing Cross Station, providing passersby with the same “generous and joyful interlude”, as Mahony describes it, that Hess herself created. As part of her six-year-long mission to boost morale, Hess played to vast audiences, including crowds of people in Trafalgar Square – which is located not far from Mahony’s Charing Cross Station piece.
The women of Waterloo Bridge by Joy Miessi, Belvedere Road, Southbank Centre
Joy Miessi’s large wall piece pays tribute to the largely forgotten women that built Waterloo Bridge, which was completed in 1945 after six years of work. While it’s widely known that women worked in shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture and munitions during the Second World War, their contributions to the construction industry are less well recognised. By mid-1945 an estimated 45,000 of them were building new factories and houses, as well as carrying out essential work in London, such as the rebuilding of the bridge. Artist Joy Miessi seeks to remember the efforts of these women with a mural that rescues them from anonymity. Each circular figure in her piece represents an arch of Waterloo Bridge, and is inspired by archival photography of the female construction workers that rebuilt it. The piece is in Miessi’s recognisable cut and paste style, with blocks of colour representing structure, river and sky. Surrounding pieces of text and observational drawings reference the conditions of the time, while letters at the bottom of the piece ask passersby to keep the stories of these forgotten women alive. Miessi’s artwork is situated on the South Bank, which is directly connected to Waterloo Bridge, and the legacy of the female construction workers that built it.
Valda James by Phoebe Collings-James, Peel Institute
Phoebe Collings-James celebrates the work of Valda James, the artist’s grandmother and the first black woman elected to Islington council in 1986, before becoming Mayor of Islington two years later. Part of the Windrush generation, Jamaican-born James came to England in 1961, where she raised her children alone – an experience that later informed her work on the Social Services committee. Collings-James’ portrait represents not just her grandmother’s career achievements, but also her perseverance in the face of the racism and sexism of the time and her own nerves in public speaking. Collings-James’ piece honours the “cultural mark” James’ has left on the city and her influence on the area of Islington, and is located close to the estate where James has lived all her life.
Marion Dorn by Soheila Sokhanvari, Victoria Station
As the woman behind TFL’s original seat pattern, and an important contributor to the interior design of Claridges, the Savoy and the Queen Mary, Marion Dorn’s artistic influence continues to be felt today. Soheila Sokhanvari pays tribute to this with a 6-metre long carpet in a pattern reminiscent of shards of stained glass. Its jagged shapes recall the suffragettes’ window smashing campaigns, which shattered glass in offices and shops across London to prove the government cared more about broken panes than women’s lives. Sokhanvari’s piece sits on a busy concourse at Victoria station, not too far from Dorn’s Chelsea apartment – where she lived with poster designer Edward McKnight Kauffer.