Top Five Public Sculptures: Cardiff

Cardiff is home to over 200 public artworks, from 19th-century commemorative statues to abstract works and celebrations of local industries commissioned as part of 20th-century regeneration projects. It is not difficult to spot many public sculptures as you walk around and they enhance what is already a fascinating City.

This is my personal top five. Let us know if you have any other favourites.

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5. Nereid, by Nathan David, 1996, The Friary

In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs which often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea. This bronze nymph stands on a wave, above a shoal of fish, and holds a sea bird in her left hand. Nereids can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms, so hopefully this one will offer some protection to the sailors setting out from Cardiff harbour.

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4. Sculptures on the National Museums Wales, 1914–1915, Cathays Park

You’ll need to look up to the top of the building to see these sculptures. A number of different sculptors designed the embellishment to the National Museum, including John Thomas Clapperton, Gilbert Bayes, Richard Louis Garbe, Bertram Pegram and David Evans. Some sculptures represent industries and artistic pursuits, including shipping, mining, music and learning. The figurative groups at the front of the building represent different historical periods – prehistoric, classical, medieval and modern. The image above shows the prehistoric and classical periods, both designed by Gilbert Bayes.

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3. All Hands, by Brian Fell, 2001, Custom House Street

Installed alongside the Glamorganshire Canal, this large sculpture depicts the hands of canal workers pulling their boats along with heavy ropes. The Glamorganshire Canal used to run from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Docks, transporting raw materials from the valleys into Cardiff and beyond, but it went out of use in the 1940s. Most of the canal has been filled in.

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2. Alight, by S. Mark Gubb, 2014, Mary Ann Street

A fairly new public artwork in the City Centre, this 10-metre high illuminated lightning bolt, made from painted steel and glass, was commissioned by Admiral Group, Stoford Developments and EMP Projects, and is sited outside Admiral’s offices. Alight was designed to contain movement and its sides are inset with coloured lights that scroll down from top to bottom, making it very eye-catching, especially when it gets dark.

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1. Welsh National War Memorial by Sir J. Ninian Comper, 1928, Alexandra Gardens

This striking monument commemorates the servicemen and women who died during World War I. A commemorative plaque for those who died during World War II was added in 1949.

The memorial has a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court, at the centre of which is a group of three bronze sculptures arranged around a stone pylon. The three figures are a soldier, a sailor and an airman, each holding a wreath. Above them, on top of the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and sculpted by Alfred Pegram. The stone masons were William D. Gough and Messrs E. Turner & Sons. The bronze statues were cast by A. B. Burton.

If you want to find out more about Cardiff’s public art, the city council has produced a Public Art Register. Their Public Art Strategy is also available online.

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