Four Nordic installations that are anything but minimalist

You might think you know all about Nordic design and aesthetics, but four free installations on show now at Southbank Centre could well give you a new perspective.

They couldn’t be further away from the clean, minimalistic vibe so many of us associate with the region. Instead they range from the playful to the grotesque – and, with their interactive elements, are great for entertaining children.

All feature as part of our Nordic Matters celebrations.

Find out more here

The Gnome King by Kalle Mustonen

Gnomes play a significant role in many Nordic folk traditions, and our Gnome King is as enigmatic as any you’ll have come across. For one thing, he’s very big! And while he’s a member of royalty, he resembles a traditional garden gnome. You can peek inside him, where you’ll discover the Gnome King is also a shed. Is he asleep – or something more sinister?

Visit him for free today, he’s lying down on Level 2, Royal Festival Hall, until Wednesday 30 August 2017.

Kalle Mustonen is a Finnish sculptor working in Lahti and Helsinki. Gnomes have figured extensively in his work.

Gnome King

Appearing Rooms by Jeppe Hein

You and your kids might think of this popular summer pop-up as ‘the fountain’, but did you know that it is actually a playful, interactive sculpture?

It uses walls made of water to form four ‘rooms’. The trick is that a randomised sequence means that the walls rise and fall, changing the shape of the rooms without any warning and sometimes giving participants a soaking.

It’s also a super fun way to cool down on a hot day – and free to visit. You can find Appearing Rooms on Festival Terrace until Sunday 24 September 2017.

Appearing Rooms

Modified Social Benches NY by Jeppe Hein

Park benches are a common sight in cities everywhere, but ours are sure to catch your eye as you wander around Southbank Centre.

Not only are they a very vibrant colour, but they turn the traditional design of a seat on its head. These park benches twist and turn in unusual ways, to make sure that sitting on them becomes a conscious process, if not always a comfortable one.

They’re also fun to climb on, provide great locations for photos and are completely free to use. You can find them in various outdoor locations across our site until Sunday 24 September 2017.

Jeppe Hein is a Danish artist. He recently held an exhibition called Jeppe Hein: Please Touch The Art.

Modified Social Benches NY

Falling Shawls by Outi Pieski

The Sami people, indigenous to northern areas of what is now Norway, Sweden and Finland, are famous for their intricate weaving techniques. This artwork uses a thousand handcrafted shawls, made by 12 Sami women, to create what Outi Pieski calls a ‘drawing in the air’. The result is a colourful, beautiful display which transforms delicate garments into a striking installation.

You can see Falling Shawls by visiting Level 2, Royal Festival Hall – or try climbing the stairs for a different perspective. How many shawls can you count? Runs until Sunday 31 December 2017.

Outi Pieski is a Finnish-Sami visual artist from Utsjoki, the Sami area in northern Finland.

Falling Shawls

Inside: Art by offenders, secure patients and detainees

Antony Gormley curates Inside, the 2017 Koestler Trust exhibition
Date override 
21 Sep 2017 – 15 Nov 2017

Kalle Mustonen: Gnome King

See sculpture from a Finnish artist who reimagines modern culture in monumental and mythic terms.

dates & times

5 July – 30 August
The interior of the structure is open Friday – Sunday, 11am – 8pm
You can view the exterior daily between 10am – 11pm


Blue Display Space 2 - Level 2, Royal Festival Hall

Kalle Mustonen’s work often plays with the idea of kitsch, bestowing mythic status on everyday objects. In doing so, he explores their underlying commonality with ancient monuments and places of worship.

In this exhibition, Mustonen showcases his intriguing large-scale wooden sculpture Gnome King, which visitors are invited to view inside a shed-like hideaway. The Gnome King is both based on a story from Finnish folklore and reminiscent of a certain variety of garden ornament.

Part of Nordic Matters

Part of Summertime

Peter Laszlo Peri: The Sunbathers

See a work of sculpture newly rescued and restored to Royal Festival Hall after having been lost for decades.

dates & times

5 July – 30 August 
Open daily, 10am – 11pm


Riverside Terrace Cafe

Since making a public call for missing works of public art last year, Historic England made a remarkable discovery. Originally created for the Festival of Britain, Peter Laszlo Peri’s The Sunbathers is being rescued and restored. This summer it is once again on show at Southbank Centre, a stone’s throw away from where the figures originally greeted Festival visitors in 1951.

Most of the art created for the Festival of Britain has sadly been lost or destroyed, but with the public's help, The Sunbathers was tracked down to the garden of The Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath, London.

Part of Summertime

Marianne Heske: Gordian Knot – Necklace

Norwegian artist Marianne Heske suspends a 20-metre glistening necklace made from over 200 Tibetan gold and silver-plated dolls’ heads. Take a closer look and try and solve this ultimate problem.

dates & times

Until Wednesday 30 August
Open daily, 10am – 11pm
Admission is free


Blue Side Foyers, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall

Roxy Farhat & HUR

This artwork and documentary is about the youth group HUR, and the personal stories of young people living in the neighbourhood of Holma in Malmö, Sweden. Holma is mostly made up of multi-storey housing blocks, and artist Roxy Farhat has worked closely with the young people and their families to create individual portraits of their lives.

dates & times

1 July – 30 August
Open daily, 10am – 11pm
Run time: 15 minutes


Green Display Space 3 – Level 2, Royal Festival Hall

The HUR youth organisation is run by young people aged 16 to 25, and focuses on youth development and health in a neighbourhood that is often categorised by the media as ‘dangerous’. In this film, these young people define their world, challenge stereotypes and work towards bringing social change.

This film is a result of Konst Händer (Art is Happening), a programme run by Public Art Agency Sweden, with the goal of fostering artistic expression in close collaboration with civil society organisations.

Part of Nordic Matters

Part of Summertime

Modified Social Benches NY: Jeppe Hein

Based on research into ‘personal space’ and inspired by New York street furniture, Danish artist Jeppe Hein created a series of Modified Social Benches. See (and sit on) these witty reinventions of the park bench this summer, each one different from the next.


22 May – 24 September


Around our site

Their design borrows from the familiar park or garden bench, altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical process and challenging the amount of space that people set between themselves and others.

Distance between people is a kind of non-verbal communication that varies depending on culture and context. There’s less distance in personal situations among close family and a greater distance in public space where strangers surround us.

The Modified Social Benches NY are intended to break our ingrained behaviour in public space, transforming their surroundings into places of social activity and encouraging interaction between those seated and those passing by.

Part of Summertime

Part of Nordic Matters

Watch the final Hayward Gallery pyramid go into place

Get a unique view of Hayward Gallery, and London, as the final glass pyramid rooflight is fitted into position on the iconic building.

Our project to Let The Light In on our 1960s arts venues recently reached an important milestone as the final glass pyramid rooflight was lowered into place on top of the Hayward Gallery. And, thanks to some nifty camera-work, you can get a unique pyramid's-eye perspective on the operation.

The Last Roof Pyramid Arrives At Hayward Gallery

However, though the pyramids are in place, our work isn't over. There is still much to do in the final year of the refurbishment project, including:

  • installing the 66 internal coffer linings on Hayward Gallery’s upper gallery ceilings; these go under the rooflights helping to let controlled natural light in for the first time
  • restoring the gallery’s stone floors to their original appearance
  • repaving the famous sculpture terraces and making them waterproof
  • cleaning some of the gallery’s concrete.

Find out more about our historic Let The Light In refurbishment project and how you can get involved.

Let The Light In

Unveiling Noémie Goudal’s giant billboard commission

Presented by Hayward Gallery, billboard commission, Station II (2015) by Noémie Goudal is typical of the way the artist likes to challenge our perception of reality in her photographs and installations, explains Cliff Lauson, Hayward Gallery curator.

Goudal often subtly stages and reconstructs parts of a scene and then photographs them. However, she is not interested in creating a perfectly seamless image – there are always edges of materials or other imperfections showing that give away the constructed nature of her images. Her work often causes viewers to do a double-take.

Station II (2015) presents a view of a landscape vista

The high vantage point of the image in combination with its forested landscape recalls the romantic tradition in painting. Realised at such a large scale, this heroic view of nature sits uneasily with the surrounding urban environment, in particular alongside the Brutalist architecture of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery.

A large circle features prominently in the sky portion of the photograph. This suspended disc actually depicts a different sky that Goudal has previously photographed, printed out and affixed to a large circular support. The cables suspending this panel are visible, as are the individual sheets of paper tiled in a grid that make up the insertion. Goudal’s conceit, which she uses across her series of Stations, explores our fascination with the sky, and how we once thought of it as a flat surface that wrapped around the earth.

Installing this billboard commission is always a challenging feat. Abseilers need to descend from the rooftop using ropes. They work in a team for a day to unfurl the printed vinyl, fastening and tensioning it onto the permanent metal frame. Cliff Lauson, Curator

Noémie Goudal’s Waterloo Bridge Billboard Commission, 4 April – 6 June 2017 Find out more

Superflex, Euro 2012

For the third Waterloo Billboard Commission, we present a work by Danish artists group Superflex. This image of a euro coin with its value conspicuously absent – made by the group in 2012, in response to the Greek financial crisis – has gained new resonance since the UK's decision to leave the EU.

The billboard is the third in a series of large-scale commissions by international artists, occupying the prominent billboard site next to Hayward Gallery, seen by tens of thousands of people crossing Waterloo Bridge every day.

Supported by the Danish Agency for Culture

Part of Nordic Matters

Euro 2012
Copyright Superflex
Courtesy of the artists


9 January – 31 March 2017


Queen Elizabeth Hall Terrace, Level 2