As museums and galleries in the UK still shut as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, The Line, a walk along some of London's waterways brings sculptures by leading artists to the public.

A work of art entitled 'ANOTHER TIME XXI, 2013' by British artist Antony Gormley is seen in Margate, southeast England, on May 16, 2020.
A work of art entitled 'ANOTHER TIME XXI, 2013' by British artist Antony Gormley is seen in Margate, southeast England, on May 16, 2020. (AP)

A gentle walk along the Thames is one way to enjoy a sunny afternoon. But head to Greenwich and you'll get more than just fresh air.

Along the river and across the water into East London, lies a special route dotted with works of art.

This is The Line, a walk along some of London's waterways that brings sculptures by leading artists to the public.

Antony Gormley's Quantum Cloud towers over the river near the O2 arena. It's part of an ever-changing line up of art that has graced route since it opened in 2015.

The project was set up by Megan Piper and the late regeneration expert, Clive Dutton.

"The idea of the project was to connect the Olympic Park and the O2 with public art walk that follows the waterways, broadly follows the line of the meridian and creates a space where people can enjoy public art and discover this sort of lesser-known side of London," explains Piper.

Work by world-famous artists like Damian Hirst and Eduardo Paolozzi were displayed when the route first opened.

Currently, the ten sculptures on show include Richard Wilson's 'A Slice of Reality'.

There couldn't be a more appropriate location for this cross-section of a ship than the River Thames.

And it catches the attention of walkers as they catch a glimpse of the inside of what was originally the Arco Trent, an ocean-going sand dredger.

With museums and galleries in the UK still shut as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, this walk is one of the ways art lovers can still get their culture fix.

"I think particularly at the moment where people are wanting to spend more time outdoors, I think through this sort of extended period of social isolation, people's daily walks, daily exercise, has been more important than ever and the idea that people could come to the Line, walk the Line, run the Line, cycle and experience these works of art in the open, is a really positive thing at this particular moment," says Piper.

One new addition to the line is Bird Boy by Laura Ford. It was installed shortly before the British government announced a lockdown and its creator thinks current circumstances play into this lonely little figure's story, as does it's a new location, out in the water.

"I think that sense of isolation becomes even more profound, as with the coronavirus. But I think even without all that it just lends it a much more kind of sense of isolation and vulnerability," says Ford.

Bird Boy was originally created for display in Swansea town centre. Ford believes there is much to be gained from showing art in public spaces rather than inside galleries.

"You just walk past it and you might walk past it five times a week, and over that time, you might build a relationship with it. You might start to think about it. You might grow to hate it. You might grow to love it. If it doesn't matter but you form a relationship with it. And that I really like," she says.

The route plotted out on the project's website also highlights the heritage and natural points of interest, like the Green Jetty, a pier where plants and trees have been encouraged to take route and which provides a haven for the river's wildlife.

The UK has been in lockdown since March 23, but many museums and galleries closed before then as the public was advised against making unnecessary journeys. No reopening dates have yet been announced.

Many institutions have turned to the online world to engage audiences, with exhibits shown on websites and video tours and talks by art experts one way to keep people interested.

But it's no substitute for getting up close and personal with the works.

"People are really missing the interaction, not just between themselves and the artwork, but also between themselves and other people who are going to look at the artwork," says art critic Estelle Lovatt.

The Line is one of the few options for seeing art in real life right now.

It stretches from Stratford to Greenwich, a walking route of around 7 kilometres that takes approximately three hours to complete.

To cross the River Thames, art lovers board cable cars, cars are currently restricted to carrying only members of the same household to prevent the spread of the virus.

It's a route that gives a view of Gormley's Quantum Cloud that could never be achieved in a gallery.

And Lovatt believes setting these works out in public adds something more to the experience.

"Sculpture actually works best outside. And, you know, it's wonderful because if you want to go and see it on a rainy day or very early at dawn or at sunset, each of the works of art you will see look totally different. If it's glistening under a puddle of rain or if there are leaves scooting past it in the wind, the sculptures will look very, very different," she says.

For a public still nervous of confined spaces with their fellow humans, art in the fresh air is one way to combine exercise with culture.

Source: AP