Secret artworks worth £30,000 each hidden in Cardiff Centre for 11 years

Each work of art at great expense has been installed in the city centre unnoticed for years.

11 pieces of artwork hidden in 90cm-high metal bollards in Cardiff City Centre. People need to crouch down to look at it through a peephole.

People are finally realizing that luxurious bollards with hidden artworks have been standing here for 11 years after watching a recent viral video.

Eleven bollards with different artwork are standing in the Hayes area of the city centre near St David’s 2 shopping arcade since 2010.

Each metal bollard is an artwork hiding different little figures and scenes, but as they are so hard to spot, many people walk past them countless times several years without discovering the secret world.

Samuel, a Cardiff native who is studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, said: “I didn’t even know there were art pieces in the bollards on the Hayes.”

In fact, the monochrome scenes inside the bollards are the activities that students at Samuel’s school studied, but he didn’t know anything about it.

Each of the artwork shows a unique scene created out of perspex. The light comes from  a tiny mirror at the top.

The art is officially called Post Secrets, created by an artist named Jane Edden. Every work costs £30,000 because special bollards had to be ordered and technical problems solved to protect the figures inside from the weather. It is part of a £1.5 million public art project in Cardiff.

“It costs a lot of money, but people don’t really know. This is a problem,” said Steve Mounter, 54-year-old, who is one of the few people who knew secret artworks.

Steven had previously watched online videos about these bollards, but he didn’t get a chance to see the world inside them.

People need to spy peepholes on the side of the metal bollards to see a series of miniature worlds designed by Jane. In order to watch them, an adult must bend down or kneel on the ground. 

But Steve, who was on crutches, couldn’t squat down to see the expensive work of art. He was not considered among the group members of the audience by the designer.

On the street where the bollards stood, there were no signs to guide people, only ‘“Edrychwch tu Fewn / Look Inside” in orange letters written on bollards mixed in with the advertising posters.

Such faint reminders are not enough to draw attention to the presence of a work of art, especially when it is hidden in a seemingly average-looking metal bollard. That’s why, 11 years later, most people still need to use social media to find out if there’s an interactive piece of art downtown.

“I don’t even know it’s some kind of construction,” said Anton, 34 years old who has a full-time job, as he put his eyes close to the cat’s eye and observed the tiny art inside. “For installation, I don’t think it’s too much.”

However, he quickly changed his mind when he learned that each bollard cost £30,000. “That is too much. Indeed, that is almost my salary per year.”

The purpose of these bollards is to create artworks that is appropriate to the surroundings without clutter. Jane Eden once said that her work is a subtle and mysterious thing that people can only find if they know what they are looking for.

It’s really a wonderful thing to interact with a work of art by looking for it yourself. But for residents who had no idea that £30,000 worth of art had been sitting in Cardiff City Centre where they often passed through, it was an endless treasure hunt.