City Airport, the artist and the Greek goddess

By Rob Virtue on January 26, 2012 10:44 AM |

airport sculpture.jpg

Used to stunning views of the East End on their landings at London City Airport, passengers will also soon be greeted by a 12-metre statue of a Greek goddess.

With back arched and arms outstretched Athena, who represents wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilisation and war, will be placed at the Airport Roundabout in Hartman Road, facing east as planes fly overhead.

London Athena is the brainchild of renowned artist Nasser Azam, who wanted to give something back to the part of London he spent his formative years in.

"I grew up in Newham and for some time have wanted to give something back to the community there," he said.

"The location is tremendous given the development that has already taken place around Royal Docks and the planned regeneration will create a key business and leisure hub, not only for Newham, but also for London."

Plans for the statue were agreed by Newham Council's strategic development committee last week with the only dissenting voice the airport itself, which said the site might not be suitable.

However, Azam said it was the kind of positive centrepiece needed in the area in an Olympic year when east London will begin a whole new journey.

He said: "I developed the sculpture to be an unambiguous form that is uplifting, inspiring, easily recognizable and one that makes reference to the present and future leisure and sporting activities of the area rather than the historic industrial past."

It's hoped the statue, which will have a matt aluminium or nickel-plated finish, will be unveiled in early May. It will be surrounded by raised concentric rings and lit up by apparatus attached to street lights.

Nasser was born in Pakistan before moving to the capital when he was seven. He went on to study business at the University of Birmingham where he took part in a number of exhibitions. His most notable work in London lately is The Dance on the South Bank, created in 2008. He is now based at a studio in Islington.

London Athena has been funded by an, as yet, unnamed backer. Azam described them as a "corporate collector" of his work, keen to invest in Newham and Silvertown's regeneration. The party is to remain anonymous until the spring unveiling.