Florentijn Hofman has launched his first ever UK commission, ‘Hippo Thames’ for the Totally Thames festival. The Dutch artist best known for his giant yellow Rubber Duck which made it’s debut in Hong Kong during Art Basel in 2013, has created an extraordinary 21-metre-long hippo sculpture, which was towed upriver today from its build site at Royal Docks to its end position at Nine Elms on the South Bank, central.
The piece was commissioned by Thames Festival Trust with support from the Mayor of London, the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership, Wanda One (UK) and Vauxhall One. Hofman launched the installation at 18:30 Tuesday 2 September, and it will remain in situ until 28 September throughout the month of Totally Thames. The installation is semi-immersed in the river and will rise and fall with the tide.
Hofman’s Rubber Duck which has been travelling to several major cities since 2007, from Auckland and Sao Paulo to Hong Kong is one of the most widely reported sculptors in recent times. His sculptures often originate from everyday objects, but the design of Hofman’s UK commission has been inspired by the fascinating prehistory of the River Thames, and the hippos that used to inhabit it.
Hofman said, “I am thrilled and excited to be using the Thames as the location of my first UK commission. The purpose of setting my sculptures in the public domain has always been to give members of the public a break from their daily routines, to inspire conversation and to cause astonishment. I hope the location of my sculpture on the Thames will inspire passers-by to engage with its surrounding area of Nine Elms on the South Bank, and to discover the various other events within the Totally Thames programme celebrating London’s river”. Hofman’s commission launches Totally Thames, a 30-day spectacular programme of events in September 2014 that include arts, music and community festivals; colourful regattas; thrilling river races; foreshore archaeology, exploration, environmental and educational activities; as well as river-linked events run by charities and voluntary organisations across the 17 London riverside boroughs. To complement the installation, Londoners can find out about the pre-history of the Thames, and the real hippos who lived in it once upon a time, at a talk at Doodle Bar on Tuesday 9 September, with poet and arts producer Tom Chivers, Natural History Museum Paleontologist Victoria Herridge and guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven Ellison.