Standing on Bond Street is a sculpture of a man riding a horse that used to be somewhere else, but in 2018 they rode here from their original home a few streets away.
The sculpture dates from 1974/5 and was commissioned as a piece of public art by Trafalgar House for an office development on the corner of Piccadilly and Dover Street. The artist was Dame Elisabeth Frink. Her Times obituary in 1993 noted the three essential themes in her work as “the nature of Man; the ‘horseness’ of horses; and the divine in human form”
So here is human and horse combined in one piece of work.
The sculpture depicts a man riding on a horse, naked and barefoot, without tack – no saddle, bridle, or other riding equipment. The man’s right hand rests on the horse’s stylised mane, with his left hand rests on the horse’s left flank. The horse is standing still on four legs, ready to walk, on a rough bronze base. The figures of man and horse are slightly stylised, with lightly defined musculature; the horse has a short mane and tail. Both have their heads turned to their left, as if looking at something.
Originally situated in a recessed space on the corner of the new hotel/office block, the ground shop it sat next to later became a coffee shop, and they had permission to put tables and chairs on the pavement space.
The result was that they surrounded the horse in an enclosure of chairs, and left it looking really quite forlorn.
The sculpture moved from its caffeinated enclosure to a new home on Bond Street in 2018, not to free it from its cluttered surroundings, but because the building it stood next to was about to be demolished, and open corner would cease to exist.
Originally it was intended to move the horse and rider to Dover Yard, but in the end it was decided a more public location on Bond Street was better. The space where the horse and rider stand now didn’t exist at the time, as the road was much wider. However, in 2017, the pavement was widened and the road narrowed, and it was decided this was the suitable location for the sculpture to be relocated to.
The new location was also said to be suitable as a landmark for the Royal Academy of Arts, and the sculptor, Dame Elizabeth Frink was a Royal Academician.
A new plinth, made from Namaka granite was created for the sculpture to stand on, replacing the large waist-height pink granite plinth it had been on when outside the coffee shop — and was at just the right height to be used for dumping empty coffee cups.
It’s certainly a lot easier to appreciate in its current location compared to how they looked before.