By Emily Mathieson
Updated: January 24, 2017
Ben Pruchine / Getty Images

Pedestrians walking west along the South Bank of the Thames don’t normally get much farther than the attractions around the London Eye and Aquarium. But a flurry of artistic activity in and around Vauxhall (an oft-overlooked neighborhood defined by its traffic gyratory, handy rail links and gay nightclubs) is making it worth the extra half-mile walk toward the hulking MI6 building that sits at its center.

Here, along a more peaceful part of the river near the Vauxhall Bridge, four pristine, life-sized cement sculptures of horses with riders have been installed on the murky riverbank, appearing only once a day at low tide, spending the rest of the time in partial (or total) submersion.

The installation, titled “The Rising Tide” and on display until the end of the month, is by Jason deCaires Taylor, who is known for his underwater sculpture parks in the Bahamas and the West Indies (where’s he’s built art that doubles as reefs for marine life). The location was chosen, he says, to capture how nature meets industrialization—the riders are two businessmen and two children, and the horse’s heads double as oil pumps. Vauxhall offers a fine backdrop for the nod to the Four Horsemen, and Taylor isn’t the only artist to have spotted something unique about the area’s visual potential.

Next month, former YBA Damien Hirst will open his long-awaited Newport Street Gallery, which will showcase pieces from Hirst’s private collection in five buildings that were once used as painting studios for West End theatre sets. Alongside a collection that includes Picasso, Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin, Hirst will curate shows such as the inaugural “Power Stations,” featuring the work of abstract painter John Hoyland.

Art publishing company Art Criteria is due to open next door and, along the road, the Beaconsfield charity space, which hosts pop-up dining, grass-roots events, and public exhibitions, add creative heft to this once forlorn area alongside the rumbling railway arches that lead to Waterloo.

Five minutes away are long-time Vauxhall attractions at Brunswick House, where a restaurant festooned with vintage lights and the salvage-antique dealer Lassco have put a creative spin on a historic building not far from the Covent Garden flower market.

The artistic renaissance is spreading to Oval, just east, where Gasworks will reopen its gallery September 24 with an exhibition by South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere, and to Kennington, just north, where the Greengrassi gallery provides an aesthetically modern stopping point for those heading to the nearby Imperial War Museum.

Emily Mathieson is on the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in London, you can follow her at @emilymtraveled.