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Great London Sculptures: The Traffic Light Tree by Pierre Vivant

One of the most unusual sculptures in London is situated on a traffic roundabout near Billingsgate Market, close to the Canary Wharf Financial District.

The public sculpture entitled Traffic Light Tree was created by the French sculptor Pierre Vivant following a competition run by the Public Art Commissions Agency.

The sculpture is eight metres tall and contains 75 sets of lights, each controlled by computer.

Vivant was inspired to creat the sculpture by London Plane Trees and the changing pattern of the lights reflects the never-ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.

The sculpture was originally located a roundabout in Millwall, at the junction of Heron Quay, Marsh Wall and Westferry Road. It was installed in 1998 and soon became a favourite with tourists and locals, however due to redevelopment in 2011 the sculpture was moved to a new location opposite Billingsgate Market where it had an official lighting-up ceremony in 2014.

It is still known to confuse motorists but that was all part of the fun about having a Traffic Light Tree. The sculpture was the reason the roundabout it stood on was voted the best UK roundabout in 2005.

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Great London Sculptures: Memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan by Sir William Goscombe John in Victoria Embankment Gardens

Visitors to London will often come across many sculptures which often give a fascinating insight into some of London’s characters.

A walk along Victoria Embankment Gardens brings you to sculptor Sir William Goscombe John’s memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan. The striking memorial features a bronze bust of Sullivan on a high granite pedestal against which a bronze female figure which is draped around the stone.

The grieving ‘Muse’ has often been called the ‘sexiest statue in London’ and leans against the pedestal which has a inscription from The Yeoman Of The Guard. The inscription reads “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon”. W. S. Gilbert. At the bottom of the pedestal is a mask, sheet music from The Yeoman Of The Guard and a mandolin.

To fully understand the symbols and the importance of the location of the memorial, it is important to know a little more about Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Sir Arthur Sullivan was born in 1842 and was a composer who is best known for his comic opera collaborations with W. S. Gilbert which include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. These operas were incredibly successful and Gilbert, Sullivan and impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte made a fortune from the collaborations. Carte used his profits from the partnership to build the Savoy Hotel which is directly opposite the memorial.

Although Sullivan wrote more serious pieces, his work with Gilbert is considered the forerunner of the type of musical theatre that would dominate the West End for the next hundred years. Sullivan’s  death at the age of 58 in 1900 was widely mourned and in 1903 this statue was erected to his memory.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
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London Sculptures : A Conversation with Oscar Wilde by Maggi Hambling in Central London

Visitors to London will often come across many sculptures in the streets which give a fascinating insight into some of London’s characters. One of the larger than life characters of the late 19th century was Oscar Wilde who was an Irish poet and playwright. He became known as a ‘wit’ and became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s and also wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, a successful novel in the period.

However, despite his success, his involvement in a libel case led to his arrest and conviction. He spent two years in prison, after his release, he left for France and died in Paris at the age of 46. After his death, Wilde’s plays have been performed regularly in London and his life continues to fascinate the latter generations.

During the 1980s and 1990s, fans of Wilde’s work suggested their should be a permanent tribute to him in London and a committee which included Jeremy Isaacs, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and Seamus Heaney decided on a fitting tribute to the playwright.

In the end, a work by artist Maggi Hambling was chosen for the memorial. The work is inscribed with a quotation from Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan: “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. The sculpture is bench-like green granite sarcophagus, with a bust of Wilde emerging from the upper end, with a hand holding a cigarette.

The sculpture was unveiled in 1998, the location is Adelaide Street which between Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station, behind St Martin’s in the Fields church. The reaction to the sculpture was mixed with some who thought it was witty and amusing whilst others thought it was like a Madame Tussauds waxwork.

Due to its location, it is often missed by many visitors but is considered one of the more interesting sculptures in central London.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here