“Public art has to demonstrate generosity towards the public”: Eva Rothschild on democratic sculpture

The Irish artist and Royal Academician has unveiled her first permanent London sculpture, a candy-striped, upside-down tree in King’s Cross intended as a social outdoor space.

16 July 2020


Amid heated debate about the inclusivity (or lack of) and purpose of our public artwork, Eva Rothschild’s first permanent sculpture in London offers a more democratic alternative. Rothschild describes the piece, called My World and Your World, to It’s Nice That as “a kind-of upside-down tree, or lightning bolt,” stemming from a single pole at the top and splitting into multiple branches rooted in the grass beneath. Its stripes of vibrant colour help its slender form stand out in its park setting surrounded by the buildings of King’s Cross, but it’s the spaces in between the branches that Rothschild is most interested in. “It hits the ground in several places and creates an open canopy,” the artist explains. “It’s architectural but doesn’t block out the surroundings, or deny access. It functions as a space rather than taking up space. It’s important for me that it works as a social sculpture, a meeting place where people can be present with it.”

Edward Colston’s statue toppling asked those commissioning and curating public realm artwork to reconsider whether said artworks were, in fact, for the public. Rothschild says that while her piece has no depiction there’s still “a power involved,” in the form of her client, The King’s Cross Project – which has also enlisted artists Rana Begum, Rasheed Araeen and Tatham O’Sullivan to create works across the huge redevelopment site. But it’s different, she explains. “Public artwork used to centre on the idea of the patron being commemorated, but with this, you’d be lucky if one in a hundred people knew I was the artist. It exists on its own, and it has to hold its own.”

Rothschild has made numerous public sculptures with similar intentions, such as Empire in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. “Whenever I’ve worked on a public sculpture they’ve been interactive,” she says. “Public work has to be there on its own terms and demonstrate a generosity towards the public.” A sculpture in a park or a station or an airport, the artist explains, becomes a destination, but where the latter two are transient, parks in particular are landmarks, instantly claimed by visitors as spots for picnics and gatherings. “It’s completely equitable. That’s the ideal for me, in terms of public work. Especially now, when parks have become everything (because of lockdown); they are the centre of the community. It’s a bizarrely good time for [this sculpture] actually.”

Rothschild represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale last year, a show which is currently touring Ireland, and will unveil another public commission in Dublin later this year. She also has a commission with Sadler’s Wells East in 2021/2022.

My World and Your World opens in King’s Cross, London today.

GalleryEva Rothschild: My World and Your World


Eva Rothschild: My World and Your World. Photo: John Sturrock


Anne Purkiss/RA: Eva Rothschild

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Eva Rothschild: My World and Your World. Photo: John Sturrock

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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