Nottingham, like any other city, comes with preconceptions. Before I came here I was warned about the city, with anxious whispers of Shottingham: gun crime capital of Europe. This meant that when I arrived I was surprised to find that Nottingham, rather than playing host to a number of violent gun-toting gangs, actually housed a rather impressive range of cultural landmarks. The placard at the top of the Castle points out the universities, the sports grounds and the galleries but it fails to mention some of the most noticeable and recognisable cultural icons in Nottingham: the public art.
Dotted around Nottingham are strategically placed statues and installations, which pay tribute to both local and international artists and no, I’m not just talking about the statue of Brian Clough, which was unveiled near Old Market Square in late 2008. Another icon whose image adorns the streets of Nottingham is the famous Robin Hood Statue, which has guarded the castle since 1952. Other famous faces immortalised in iron include Lord Byron and D.H. Lawrence, whose busts are on display in the Castle. D.H. Lawrence also stands on our very own campus, with his statue pensively loitering outside LASS. These tributes are indicative of the cultural history of Nottingham, but they are not the only public art that Nottingham has to offer.
One of the most famous and noticeable of all the installations in Nottingham is Anish Kapoor’s ‘Sky Mirror’, which has stood in the courtyard outside the Nottingham Playhouse since 2001. For those who haven’t seen it, ‘Sky Mirror’ does exactly what it says on the tin: reflecting the ever changing skyline of Nottingham within its giant concave dish. The mirror’s presence has even resonated overseas, with New York unveiling their own super-sized American version of the mirror in 2006.
Nottingham does not only inspire artwork, it also borrows it too, with the best example being the two lions, which flank the Council House in Market Square. These take inspiration from the lions at the British Empire Exhibition in the 1920s and compliment the classical style of the Council House itself. The lions have become symbolic of Nottingham, acting as a handy meeting place and the inspiration for the local culture magazine, Left Lion.
It is all well and good talking about the different art around Nottingham, but what is the point of it? People are often oblivious to these installations and neglect to mention them when commenting on art in the city. Although the public art is not well publicised this does not mean that it is any less important to the cultural richness of the city. So, next time you arrange to meet by the Lions or Robin Hood, think a little more about your meeting place.