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Top five public sculptures: Cardiff

Article by Katey Goodwin, Art UK Head of Research & Digitisation and Project Manager for The Sculpture Project. Article reproduced with the kind permission of Art UK – The Sculpture Project*

Cardiff is home to over 200 public artworks, from 19th-century commemorative statues to abstract works and celebrations of local industries commissioned as part of 20th-century regeneration projects. It is not difficult to spot many public sculptures as you walk around and they enhance what is already a fascinating City.

This is my personal top five. Let us know if you have any other favourites.


 Nereid 1996 Bronze by Nathan David photo credit Katey Goodwin

1996, bronze by Nathan David, © the artist, photo credit: Katey Goodwin

 by Nathan David, 1996, The Friary

In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs which often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea. This bronze nymph stands on a wave, above a shoal of fish, and holds a sea bird in her left hand. Nereids can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms, so hopefully this one will offer some protection to the sailors setting out from Cardiff harbour.


Sculpture on the National Museum Wales 1914-15 by Gilbert Bayes 1872-1953 photo credit Katey Goodwin

Sculpture on National Museum Wales
1914–1915, by Gilbert Bayes (1872–1953), © the artist’s estate, photo credit: Katey Goodwin

Sculptures on the National Museums Wales, 1914–1915, Cathays Park

You’ll need to look up to the top of the building to see these sculptures. A number of different sculptors designed the embellishment to the National Museum, including John Thomas Clapperton, Gilbert Bayes, Richard Louis Garbe, Bertram Pegram and David Evans. Some sculptures represent industries and artistic pursuits, including shipping, mining, music and learning. The figurative groups at the front of the building represent different historical periods – prehistoric, classical, medieval and modern. The image above shows the prehistoric and classical periods, both designed by Gilbert Bayes.


.All hands 2001 by Brian Fell photo credit Katey Goodwin

All Hands
2001, by Brian Fell, © the artist, photo credit: Katey Goodwin

All Hands, by Brian Fell, 2001, Custom House Street

Installed alongside the Glamorganshire Canal, this large sculpture depicts the hands of canal workers pulling their boats along with heavy ropes. The Glamorganshire Canal used to run from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Docks, transporting raw materials from the valleys into Cardiff and beyond, but it went out of use in the 1940s. Most of the canal has been filled in.


Alight 2014 painted steel and glass by S Mark Gubb photo credit Katey Goodwin

2014, painted steel and glass by S. Mark Gubb, © the artist, photo credit: Katey Goodwin

Alight, by S. Mark Gubb, 2014, Mary Ann Street

A fairly new public artwork in the City Centre, this 10-metre high illuminated lightning bolt, made from painted steel and glass, was commissioned by Admiral Group, Stoford Developments and EMP Projects, and is sited outside Admiral’s offices. Alight was designed to contain movement and its sides are inset with coloured lights that scroll down from top to bottom, making it very eye-catching, especially when it gets dark.


Welsh National War Memorial 1928 by Sir J Ninian Comper 1864-1960 photo credit Katey Goodwin

Welsh National War Memorial
1928, by Sir J. Ninian Comper (1864–1960), © the artist’s estate, photo credit: Katey Goodwin

Welsh National War Memorial by Sir J. Ninian Comper, 1928, Alexandra Gardens

This striking monument commemorates the servicemen and women who died during World War I. A commemorative plaque for those who died during World War II was added in 1949.

The memorial has a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court, at the centre of which is a group of three bronze sculptures arranged around a stone pylon. The three figures are a soldier, a sailor and an airman, each holding a wreath. Above them, on top of the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and sculpted by Alfred Pegram. The stone masons were William D. Gough and Messrs E. Turner & Sons. The bronze statues were cast by A. B. Burton.

If you want to find out more about Cardiff’s public art, the city council has produced a Public Art Register. Their Public Art Strategy is also available online.

*About Art UK

Art UK (formerly the Public Catalogue Foundation), is a dynamic arts charity based in London, but with a national and global reach. Its charitable mission is to transform access to the UK’s publicly owned art, much of which is not on display, for enjoyment, learning and research. Its priorities lie in mapping art collections, encouraging public engagement with them and improving our knowledge of these collections.

Your Paintings is Art UK’s flagship website showing the nation’s entire oil painting collection in public ownership, photographed by Art UK over a ten-year period. Working closely with collections up and down the country, Art UK completed the digitisation programme in late 2012, by which point it had recorded over 210,000 paintings from over 3,000 collection venues. The website was built in partnership with the BBC. Other initiatives include Your Paintings Tagger, Art Detective and Masterpieces in Schools.

Your Paintings was replaced in early 2016 with a new, improved version of the website – Art UK. The new site is a unique and powerful digital showcase of art in the UK for audiences across the world. Go to to find out more.

Art UK’s Sculpture Project will create a comprehensive photographic record of the UK’s publicly owned sculptures, arguably the finest in the world. Many of these works are hidden away, without records, images or online access. Many public monuments are not fully recorded and are at risk. The project will transform the way people access and learn about their sculpture heritage, and will allow existing, new and diverse audiences to share knowledge, exchange opinions and visit objects, both in person and online.

The Sculpture Project will be run in partnership with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA), the BBC, Culture Street, the Royal Photographic Society and Factum Arte. Project development is supported by the Sculpture Steering Panel consisting of sculpture experts and curators from across the UK.

The project is currently in a Development Phase, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation and the PMSA. Art UK is working towards a second-round Heritage Lottery Fund bid and if successful, this three-year project will commence in 2017.

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