Paris-based artist Léo Caillard, widely acclaimed for his Hipsters in Stone series (classical statues draped in contemporary attire), has been commissioned to dress the statues above the entrance to Bush House, part of the Strand campus of King's College London. The installation, facilitated by Overbury’s refurbishment team on site, accompanies a major exhibition on The Classical Now.

The Classical Now, a major exhibition pairing the work of modern and contemporary artists with Greek and Roman sculpture and antiquities, opens at King’s College London on 2 March 2018.  The installation at King's College London has been generously facilitated by Overbury –  ­­the contractor responsible for the renovation of Bush House and the wider Strand campus.

For The Classical Now Caillard has dressed the two statues above the grand travertine marble entrance to the Grade II listed Bush House buildings on Aldwych, the former home of the BBC World Service and now part of King’s Strand campus where Overbury has been working for the last year. A crane was used to raise Caillard almost 100 feet; then a specialist abseiling team (led by CCS Jeweltone) worked with the artist to realise the intervention. 

Made by American artist Malvina Hoffman in 1925 to symbolise the friendship between Britain and America, the statues were each hewn from a 20-ton piece of stone. Caillard has labelled the performance To the Friendship of the Classical and the Contemporary, adapting his title from the inscription beneath the statues (‘To the friendship of English speaking peoples’).

The exhibition is staged across two spaces at King’s, the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House East Wing, and The Arcade at Bush House – a new space for exhibitions and events at King’s. The Classical Now is presented in partnership with MACM (Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins), and features the work of over 30 modern and contemporary artists. The installation will remain in place during the run of the exhibition – until 28 April 2018.

It seems obvious to me that our past is our present. Antiquity is at the origin of our era. My work therefore seeks to open a dialogue – and humour is a brilliant way of getting people to see things anew.’ Michael Squire, who has led the associated ‘Modern Classicisms’ research project in the Department of Classics at King's, adds: ‘The aim of this installation is to make Bush House itself part of the exhibition. Caillard’s work stops us in our tracks: it helps us to see the legacy of classical art as part of the here and now.’