Three rusting steel figures in silhouette stand mute watching people jogging past who barely glimpse at them.

These are one of a nationwide set of sculptures installed in 2007 by the walking and cycling charity, Sustans, funded by the National Lottery.

Each Portrait Bench is a collection of three distinctive, life­size local figures cut from sheet steel and installed by a simple bench, inviting you to sit or step up into the space and become a part of the portrait group.

The features of each character have been simplified while retaining their essential characteristics, and a public vote by local residents chose which three from a shortlist should be installed.

Here next to the Regents Canal stand Ledley King, a professional footballer who grew up playing football in Bow.

More topical for this year, also Sylvia Pankhurst who worked in the East End to work on improving conditions for poor mothers.

And an icon of the old canals, a horse — of the sort that worked the canals for many years pulling barges. The public pavements that people today walk, jog and cycle along were originally built for horses.

There’s a map of all the Portrait Benches across the UK here.

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One comment on “London’s Public Art: Bethnal Green’s Portrait Bench
  1. harry says:

    Does anybody actually like the appearance of artificially-rusted metal?

    If you moved into a house one of these objects in the garden, the first thing you would do is give it several coats of paint. Or sell it for scrap.

    Sorry, but regardless of the otherwise artistic merit of the objects themselves, I’m afraid that’s *exactly* what they look like — forgotten scrap metal.

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