Individual commissions – Evergreen, David Batchelor, London Borough of Southwark

Theme: art as part of a new development, through section 106 and additional developer funding

Evergreen, David Batchelor, 2003 – ongoing.. Photo: Stephen McLaren

Evergreen, David Batchelor, 2003 – ongoing, commissioned by More London Development through curator Andrea Schlieker. Photo: Stephen McLaren                     

Best practice in: developing an exemplary decision-making process involving local arts and community organisations to help ensure high-quality work that was relevant to the site.

Key facts and figures

Site: More London, LB Southwark, London, 2003

Commissioner: 
More London Development

Funding source for commission: Section 106 planning agreement between More London Development and Southwark Council for £230,000 for art as part of the development, then increased by More London to £350,000. Further £105,000 raised from Pool of London Partnership and the Arts & Business New Partners scheme. Evergreen around £75,000 of overall budget for art for the site (£455,000).

Artist: David Batchelor           

Art consultancy: Independent Curator Andrea Schlieker

Design & fabrication: Mike Smith Studio Architects: Foster & Partners, Townshend Landscape Architects

Construction managers: The Mace Group, McNicholas

Project overview
David Batchelor’s work, Evergreen, is part of the More London Development site on the South Bank, London, adjacent to Tower Bridge. From the outset, More London were keen to create a popular new recreation area as part of the development and made the decision to designate over half of the 13-acre site as open space accessible to the public. Art commissions were planned as an integral part of the scheme, both as a way of unifying the public spaces between the buildings and animating the environment. 

More London established an advisory group that included the development masterplan architects Foster & Partners, community representatives, and local arts organisations, such as Tate Modern and Delfina Studios. They and More London then appointed a specialist public art curator, Andrea Schlieker, to curate the commissions programme.  In January 2002, a shortlist of nine artists recommended by the curator were invited to visit the site and given three months to submit proposals. David Batchelor’s proposal was selected in June and the development, fabrication and installation took a further 12 months, with the project officially inaugurated in September 2003. Specialists Mike Smith Studio were appointed for project management and fabrication, including overseeing the team working on the design, development, testing, installation and maintenance of the work.  The close working relationship between them, the artist, and More London’s design and construction team was a key element to the success of the project. 

Aims of the commission

  • Enhance and animate the new public space along the Thames path at this central London location.
  • Introduce strong colours into the subdued tones of the built environment.
  • Give the artist an opportunity to work in a new context.

Commission description
Batchelor’s work, Evergreen, is a figurative, life-size, bright green fluorescent light sculpture of a tree made from acrylic and steel.  The work is placed among the formal tree planting of the development.  Two other pieces were also commissioned for the site: Full Stop (2003) by Fiona Banner and Couple (2003) by Stephan Balkenhol.

Outcomes
The success of working with the expert advisory group impressed Southwark Council, leading them to recommend this process in other local developments.  In terms of the final artworks, these have become distinct landmarks for the site and More London Development view them as an important element in creating character and identity for the area.

The popular public space is now also used for other temporary exhibitions and installations which have included the Disasters Emergency Committee 40th anniversary exhibition of work by photojournalist Tom Stoddard (June 2004) and Toby Paterson’s Powder Blue Orthogonal Pavilion installation as part of the UP PROJECTS production, Portavilion (July ­– September 2008).

As More London is a large privately owned estate, we didn’t want an approach that would parachute in corporate art.  We wanted an inclusive process – something that would involve local people and artist organisations in the process. Alistair Huggett, Southwark Council

Key factors for success

  • The decision to include artworks early on in the scheme allowed commissions to be properly integrated – there was enough space and time for the curatorial process which, from initial invitations to completion, took 20 months.
  • A realistic budget, which allowed the commissioning of high calibre artists.
  • The appointment of an expert advisory group, which included the commissioners, the local council, a local community group, the development architects and local arts organisations, ensured clear local consultation and made additional expert skills and knowledge available.
  • The appointment of a specialist public art curator and project management team ensured high level professional skills were available to oversee the process. 
  • The close working relationship built up between the artist, and the management and delivery teams, meant good communication and professional respect supported the process throughout.

Contact
Original commissioning and the development masterplan: Liam Bond, More London Development, 6 More London Place, London SE1 2DA  Email: liam@morelondondev.com

Ongoing management of the estate and events: Sarah Green, Communications Manager, More London Estate Management, 2a More London Riverside, London, SE1 2DB  Email: sgreen@morelondonestates.co.uk

Web: www.morelondon.com

References: Open Space: Art in the Public Realm in London 1995 – 2005, Jemima Montagu (Ed.), Arts Council England and Central London Partnership, London, 2007.