Standing outside Liverpool Street Station, Richard Serra’s Fulcrum is the most under-observed 17 metre tall sculpture in the city.
Serra is an American minimalist sculptor who is best known for his enormous works made out of thick slabs of steel: perhaps most famously The Matter of Time at the Bilbao Guggenheim and Tilted Arc, which was installed in New York’s Federal Plaza before being dismantled after huge public controversy.
In contrast to those horizontal works, Serra had to work vertically to create Fulcrum, as the Broadgate space is tightly enclosed by several tall office buildings (he used a similar strategy for his 2008 Promenade exhibition in Paris, when faced with the enormity of the Grand Palais). But somehow, the crowded nature of the space combined with the height of the sculpture means that the full force of the work can easily be missed if you don’t stop to take a proper look.
Constructed out of his trademark COR-TEN Steel, which weathers to create those intriguing, rusty textures, each enormous component piece is (almost unbelievably) free-standing, angling precariously inwards. Yet each is balanced by the others, preventing a terrible mess being made of the commuters below, and resulting in a wonderful tension between the brute physicality of those huge pieces of steel, and the poise and balance of the sculpture.
It has always seemed a shame to me that tens of thousands of commuters pass one of my favourite pieces of public sculpture every day without stopping to appreciate its vertiginous power. So next time you’re at the station, take a seat on the nearby steps and give this terrific work by one of the world’s pre-eminent sculptors a few minutes of your time.