I’ve haven’t lived in north-west London, so unless visiting London Zoo, Regent’s Park has never been on my radar. Having spent the entire summer holidays intending to head on over but never quite managing it, with the promise of an unseasonably warm Sunday, we packed a picnic ready to explore Frieze Sculpture before it ends on the 8th October.
Featuring 24 brand new works by leading artists including Alicja Kwade and Eduardo Paolozzi, this is the first time Frieze has ever curated a free summer exhibition in the park, ahead of the main London art fair.
Before we’d even found the sculpture walk, we stumbled upon the unusual Marylebone Green Playground, less than 5 minutes stroll from Regent’s Park station. Subject to its own artistic refurbishment in 2013, the space now sports 3 distinct zones, with the original play equipment forming the Traditional Zone, scattered logs and boulders forming the Natural Play Zone and brutalist geometric shapes and rendered walls forming the Art Play Zone. Apart from being surrounded by the building site of the Frieze Art Fair under construction, this hidden gem of a playground, popular with international residents and visitors, was an immediate crowd-pleaser and the perfect antidote to any long tube journey.
With the promise of a picnic, we made the short stroll through the immaculate Avenue Gardens, passing well-heeled ladies, tennis couples and cats on leads (!), to the beautiful English Gardens, a visual treat I’m sure at any time of year. Immediately struck by the scale and variety of sculpture on offer, our excited companions dashed off to explore, leaving us hot on their heels, reading the riot act about no touching or climbing.
With a showcase of work on this scale, in such a playful setting, it’s so tempting for little ones to view it as an extension of the playground, but with some smart ways to enjoy the multiplicity of sizes, shapes and subjects, you’ll soon avoid sounding like a broken record.
Our pick of the bunch which were just as fun to look at, without getting hands on were:
Ugo Rondinone’s Summer Moon (S3) With the appearance of a mysterious ghost tree, this man-made white-enamelled re-creation of a 1000 year old olive tree, creates a magical shimmer in the sunlight.
Rasheed Araeen’s Summertime (S7) The Regent’s Park – Looking somewhat like a multicoloured scaffolding, this window-like structure was fun to walk around, looking across at each other through the shapes and watching them change as we moved.
Michael Craig-Martin’s Wheelbarrow (S8) Seemingly at home in the surrounding gardens, yet completely incapable of holding anything in its reduced flat structure, hours of fun can be spent playing with perspective by taking photos from a distance.
KAWS Final Days (S10) If the weird criss-cross eyes don’t creep the kids out, fun can be had growling and stomping towards this Smurf-like toy-cum-monster, by a once prolific street artist.
Bernar Venet’s 17 Acute Unequal Angles (S17) Welded together from Corten Steel (not wooden as it appears), we found ourselves up-close to maths, walking around and under, counting all 17 angles as we went.
Hank Willis Thomas Endless Column (S15) Impossible to miss, like a beacon of play to most children in the sculpture park, this towering sculpture of footballs was by-far the most photographed sculpture in the park. Inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column, the piece comments on the room for growth in the relationship between sport, black identity, popular culture.
Beyond the sculpture trail, the beautiful bridges and boating lake can make for a perfect addition to a day out. If the whole family on a pedalo at £28 and hour is too much to stomach, there’s children’s only pedalos in a mini lake at a more palatable £4 per child (20 minutes).