Sunday, 30 October 2011

Heatherwick's Blue Carpet attracts scrap metal thieves

Thomas Heatherwick's 'Blue Carpet' artwork outside the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle has become the latest victim of a spate of thefts that have been attributed to the current high value of scrap metal.

According to the Newcastle Journal, on 25th September 2011 thieves had stolen a smaller amount of bronze plating, but on the evening of 5th October 2011 thousands of pounds worth of bronze, which formed the border of the artwork, was taken. The two thefts are believed to be linked.
The artwork, which was originally completed in 2001, had cost around £1.4m (or £1.6m, depending on which source you believe) and been lottery funded as part of a regeneration initiative. While the artwork has disappointed some - its intended hue has not been very blue for some time - it is usually heralded for its playful nature and for blurring the boundaries between urban design and public art. It is sad indeed to see our public spaces being stripped in this way, especially when there is extremely limited funding for new commissioning at this time and local authorities are struggling to make savings.

Read the Newcastle Journal's original article here:

Read Alan Sykes' Guardian Northerner blog article about the theft here:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dalziel and Scullion artwork installed in Warwickshire

An artwork entitled Gold Leaf: Buried Sunlight by Dundee-based artists Dalziel + Scullion has been installed at Pooley Country Park, in Polesworth in Warwickshire. The park is located on the former Pooley Hall Colliery site, which is visible from the M42.

The work was officially unveiled on 30 September, and was part of a plan to regenerate the area through funding from the Homes and Communities Agency through their National Coalfields programme, and delivered by Warwickshire County Council.

The work is designed to complement the other site improvements, including a spiral path up the spoil heap.The ‘golden tower of leaves’ was selected as it is an idea with depth and relevance to the formation of the park. The Birch leaf is synonymous with Pooley, as Birch trees were one of the first species to recolonise the disturbed ground following the closure of the colliery.
The artwork has received some criticism in the national press (albeit in the Sunday Express and Daily Mail) for being commissioned at a time when the local authority have announced a 3-year programme to cut costs by £21m. In reality it was probably commissioned well before the cuts were even being thought about, and as is usually the case, as funding is not transferable, it is not as though a library could have been saved from closure instead....

To read the article on Warwickshire County Council's website, visit:

To watch a timelapse video of the artwork being installed, visit:

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sculpture park plans unveiled for Oslo

A new sculpture park featuring around 80 sculptures by international artists has been approved and is due to open in Oslo, Norway's capital, by 2014. The park will be located on Ekeburg Hill, south east of the city and 15 minutes from the city centre. The hill is renowned for having some of the best views of the city.

The park will be funded by the multimillionaire property investor and collector Christian Ringnes, who has already invested around 30 million Euros in the project.

The developer's taste has already been questioned by some, including a panel of selectors chosen to assess the art to be displayed. However, James Turrell, Dan Graham, Tony Oursler and Jenny Holzer are currently undertaking commissions, and works by artists such as Rodin and Dali have already been purchased. 

Read an article dated June 2011 here:

To read The Art Newspaper's full article, visit:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Should public art be retired?

Greyworld artist Andrew Shoben has recently made a programme for Radio 4, Change of Art, where he discusses whether art in public spaces could be rotated, and when it should be decommissioned.

He talks to Wilfred Cass at the Cass Sculpture Foundation, artist Antony Gormley, Sandy Nairne from the National Portrait Gallery, and a local authority public art officer to get their views.

Like many of these public art - focused programmes, it goes round and round in circles whil remaining essentially inconclusive, but it is worth a listen nonetheless.

The local authority officer interviewed fails to take account that a lot of public art commissioned is not publicly funded, as it is funded by the developer as part of a section 106 agreement.

You can listen to the programme on the iPlayer at:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Comedy Carpet rolled out in Blackpool

Photograph by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images 

After 5 years' hard work and £4m, an artwork which spells out over 1,000 comedians' catchphrases and jokes has finally been completed in Blackpool. The granite and cast concrete work is a 'typographic pavement' covering a space of 1,880 square metres. It has been built into the promenade at the foot of the Blackpool Tower, and features 160,000 individually cut letters ranging in height from a few centimetres to almost a metre. The work was constructed in a former fish factory in Hull.

The artwork was officially opened by comedian Ken Dodd on 10 October, and references Blackpool's rich tradition of hosting comedy performances. In a video on Blackpool Gazette's website, the artist Gordon Young points out that around 80% of the comedians quoted (including Mae West) have performed in the town. 

Photo: Getty Images

Other comedians quoted in the work include Matt Lucas, Morecambe and Wise, Tony Hancock, Peter Kay, John Cleese, Kenneth Williams, Spike Milligan and Les Dawson.

To watch the video with an interview by the artist, visit:

To read the full article from The Guardian's Northerner blog, visit: 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Gillian Wearing project for Birmingham

Family Monument Trento, Gillian Wearing, 2008

Conceptual artist Gillian Wearing (b.1963) and IKON Gallery in Birmingham are working on a project to find 'the real Birmingham family'. The winners will be immortalised in bronze for a sculpture to be sited in Centenary Square, near the new central library, in 2013. The project will be a 'lasting celebration of Birmingham residents'. Families can nominate themselves by visiting and nominations remain open until 1 April 2012.

Gillian Wearing RA, 'Sixty Minute Silence', 1996. Colour video projection with sound, 60 minutes. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Gillian Wearing was born in Birmingham and was known as one of the YBAs (she exhibited in Sensation in 1997, the same year she won the Turner Prize). She is probably best known for Sixty Minute Silence (1996) the video she made, apparently of a group of policemen posing for a group photograph. At times they are so still the video could be mistaken at first glance for a photograph, but as the video goes on they get more fidget-y. The 'policemen' later turned out to be actors. Wearing's other work includes a series of photographs Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1992–93) and Dancing in Peckham (1994), a film of the artist dancing in a shopping centre in Peckham. 

© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

While Wearing has always been interested in the concept of 'family', the Birmingham project bears some intriguing similarities to Cornelia Parker's quest to find a local model for a bronze mermaid in Folkestone, as part of the Folkestone Triennial. It seems as though these projects are a sort of art X-Factor, that by involving local people somehow the artwork will gain credibility or respect. It is also reminiscent of Antony Gormley's Fourth Plinth work in which everyday people became the performers, or the artwork itself. Are contemporary artists running out of ideas for ways to engage the public and produce a work which will last 25 years in the public realm? I am really quite disappointed by this work, having previously admired the artist. But I will reserve my judgement for now, just in case the final work proves to be excitingly controversial.....otherwise, yawn.

New Claes Oldenburg sculpture is unveiled in Philadelphia

Photo by Tom Crane/ courtesy of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Okay, so Claes Oldenburg's (b.1929) style of public sculpture is fairly old-school, but in my view there's still something quite pleasing about a 51-foot paintbrush. And he is 82. Paint Torch was commissioned at a cost of $1.5m by Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) for the Lenfest Plaza, installed on 20 August 2011 and illuminated for the first time on 1st October 2011. It was funded by the Lenfest family and the city of Philadelphia, which has another three public works by Oldenburg created in the 1970s and early 80s, including one of his Oldenburg's first public sculptures, Clothespin, created in 1976.

Bob Krist© 1999 by Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

The 'paintbrush' tilts at an angle, as if it were about to dip into the 'drop of paint' below, and is topped with illuminated bristles. You can watch a video made during the construction here: Paint Torch is the artist's first public work completed without his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, who died in 2009. Together they had previously collaborated to create 41 large-scale artworks. Claes Oldenburg is probably best known for his soft sculptures of everyday items such as hamburgers, bathtubs and lipsticks which were often deflated as if the party had just ended. Remarkably, Philadelphia has had a Per Cent for Art policy since 1959 - which was the first of its kind in the USA.

You can read more on the PAFA's website here: and read The Art Newspaper's article about the artwork here: