April – September 2011
“The urban fox is… a handy metaphor for the London art scene: It’s slick and sly and not intimidated by a few squawks and flying feathers.” New York Times
In 2011 I was invited by Southbank Centre to put forward ideas for outdoor installations and sculptures to commemorate the 1951 ‘Land of Britain’ exhibition that celebrated rural life as part of the Festival of Britain. I had long been a fan of Snugbury’s farm in Cheshire, run by a family of farmers. Each year the family creates a giant straw sculpture which stands through the summer, attracting sightseers to whom they sell home-made ice cream to raise money for charity.
As part of its 60th anniversary celebration of the Festival of Britain, I collaborated with Alex Rinsler and his team at Pirate Technics and Snugburys to transplant this remarkable countryside tradition to the city. Pirate Technics chose an animal that captures the essence of British wildlife today, encouraging people to look differently at the South Bank of the Thames, as they did in 1951.
The extraordinary build was documented by Andy Hague and Nekane Requejo de Ozamiz in a short film Vulpes Travels.
The resulting 7 metre high sculpture changed London’s skyline and captured the imagination of people around the world.
As we learn to become more careful with our resources, what better animal is there to represent wily resilience than an Urban Fox? These creatures have long been considered a uniquely British phenomenon.
Everyone remembers locking eyes with a fox in a garden or street. Urban Fox recreates that moment of wildness on a grand scale, so for a fleeting instant you are not sure who owns this space.
“Susan” as she was nicknamed, has since left her concrete den on the Southbank and gone to live the rural idyll at a secret countryside location.
Credits and Creative team:
Commissioned by Southbank Centre
Created and built by Pirate Technics
Design: Mike de Butts.
Artwork: Alex Geldenhuys.
Time-lapse documentary: Andy Hague and Nekane Requejo de Ozamiz.
Produced by Alex Rinsler.
OPTI Trilite provided by OPTI Kinetics.
With special thanks to: Chris and Cheryl Sadler at Snugbury’s Farm, Dave Richards and Bob Stagg of Conisbee Structural Engineers, Piers de Saran, Matt Jackman, Stephen Smith and the rest of the Nottingham team.