Art

The mixed palette that is London 2012

By Frisco Rosso

Controversial Czech artist David Cerny has been hard at work again, this time dropping his usual objective of infuriating politicians and delighting the red pens of the censors in favour of a new sculpture, inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games.

London Boosted consists of what looks like a 1957 Bristol Lodekka double-decker bus (and not a 1957 Routemaster, as one or two Telegraph journos seem to think)  with large hydraulic arms fitted and a big red arse sculpted on the back – as bold and unmistakable as the proverbial stiff upper lip.

This not insubstantial engineering feat mimics the stance and motion of push-up exercise, and rises up and down accordingly, while accompanied by sound effects evoking tough physical effort.

Although loosely branded as an unofficial mascot, Cerny’s off the wall piece blends in pretty well with the eclectic design frenzy that has surrounded the London 2012 Olympics over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, many oversized and overstated offerings have eclipsed more unique and thought-provoking works.

Marcus Fairs, editor of architecture and design magazine Dezeen summed up the situation quite succinctly.

The London 2012 is definitely not a vintage Olympics for architecture and design. The organisers have managed to commission the worst logo, the worst font, the worst mascots and the worst architectural landmark (the horrific ArcelorMittal Orbit viewing tower/ sculpture) in modern Olympic history. However, London has never been very good at grand gestures; it is much better at street culture, subversion and spontaneous wit.”

Fairs’s view may seem overly negative but he does have a point. The logo and mascots are a bit of a mystery to me, in that I don’t think they really do London any favours in terms of profile, and have little if any bearing on what it means to be British, whatever that might be.

But there have been some genuinely interesting creations, as well as one or two white elephants:

 

The ArcelorMittal Orbit

Looking suspiciously like a giant futuristic hookah pipe, the 115m high observation tower/sculpture was commissioned by world famous mop head Boris Johnson, who is also known as the Mayor of London.

Apparently, Johnson decided the Olympic Park needed “something extra” in the form of an architectural landmark and so, like good health needs a brain tumour, he launched a design competition. Sculptors/designers/artists Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond came out top of the entry list with Orbit. Johnson managed to backrub steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal into funding some £15-million worth of steel for the structure, which explains its catchy name.

During the launch of ArcelorMittal Orbit Johnson blurted out, presumably with a straight face, “It would have boggled the minds of the Romans. It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel”.

It certainly boggles something and will probably be a source of unparalleled amusement for the French for years to come. Closer to awful than Eiffel. Hilarant!

 

The Fire Garden

Although only temporary, The Fire Garden, consisting of ignited sculptures surrounding Stonehenge, looked to be an exciting and mesmerising spectacle.

With torches and fire pots aplenty, the Salisbury International Arts Festival organised the event which unfortunately only lasted for three days. Still, the fiery scenes certainly appeared to be an appropriately bedazzling pagan-style spectacle in anticipation of the Olympics.

 

Olympic Spirit

Epitomizing the essence and endeavour of the Olympic Games, Anna Chromy’s 18ft bronze Olympic Spirit is certainly a more classical style and leaves little room for ambiguity.

The piece is set to be sold after the Games with the proceeds going towards the re-generation of the Olympic site and to help raise money for British athletes gearing up to compete in the Winter Olympics in Russia.

 

Going for Broke

Artist Alex Chinneck challenges the concept and association of smashed windows with social and economic decline through Going for Broke.

Chinneck carefully installed 312 identically broken windows into this abandoned factory in Hackney – a London borough that has undergone urban regeneration due to the Olympic Village and International Broadcast Centre for the Olympics having been built there.

This tranquil and unassuming example of street art contrasts with the glitz and opulent fanfare of the Olympics, and serves as a humble reminder of overlooked and abandoned structures in the midst of multi-million pound development.


 

Frisco Rosso

With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.

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