A £250,000 steel sculpture that rises more than seven metres above the ground is the latest addition to Jersey’s growing collection of public art.
Erected in the past few days, Sail, by Chinese artist Zheng Lu, now dominates the public space at the heart of the Jersey Development Company’s Horizon apartments, adjoining the St Helier Marina.
The development is being built by French contractor Groupe Legendre.
Representing the movement of a sail in the wind, the piece is constructed from more than 300 stainless steel tubes and was commissioned from the percentage-for-art contribution for the new housing development.
In Jersey with a team from his Beijing studio, the artist personally supervised the installation of the piece, which was placed by crane into its permanent location, visible from a number of different points leading to the new development.
Describing how the commission was developed, Mr Lu said: ‘I visited the site previously with [public art consultant] Chris Clifford and I wanted to do something related to the sea and to this specific location.
‘I made a design for the space, but I then decided to enlarge the work because I felt that it needed to be a bit taller and wider to get the relationship with the surrounding buildings right.’
Born in 1978 in Inner Mongolia, Mr Lu studied at Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts from 2004 to 2007. While still at school, he won the LVMH prize, which offered a three-month scholarship to the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Acclaimed for his sculptures and installations, Mr Lu’s work has been displayed in galleries across the world.
The artist is especially known for work which captures nature in motion, often the flow of water or the movement of droplets of liquid. Digital art platform Colossal described some of his previous sculptures in the following way: ‘Challenging our expectations and understanding of physics, smooth, chrome-like surfaces reflect the surroundings and change in the light as the viewer moves around them, further adding to the perception that the sculpture itself is in motion.’
The Jersey commission, which followed a procurement process considering the work of more than 20 international artists, involved constructing a piece capable of withstanding the special conditions on the St Helier Waterfront, where the climatic conditions, especially the strength of the wind, made it important that the work could combine its necessary structural strength with a deceptive sense of lightness.
While installing Sail, the artist was asked by a passer-by what the work represented. Limited by his command of English – in interview he takes advantage of an interpreter – he replied simply: ‘The wind’. He was encouraged by her reaction.
‘“Yes,” she said. “That is truly the wind.” But everyone can explain the meaning for themselves,’ Mr Lu added with a smile.