Tag Archives: public art


13 Nov

Ehhhhhh… nasty landlord.

(* Link for those too young and/or too not from London to get this reference.)

South Korean pop star PSY, of Gangnam Style infamy, is not only trying to force an artist-led organisation out of a building he owns in the gentrifying Hannamdong neighbourhood of Seoul (so he can renovate it, presumably for higher rents) but has also launched defamation lawsuits against four of the artists for publicising his actions and criticising him. Don’t like going viral quite so much when it doesn’t flatter you, Mr Park?

Of course this is just one of many instances of the same crap that is happening in London and in other major cities in the developed world; as the rich get richer and the poor get punished, artists, the low paid and even reasonably well-salaried key workers like nurses and teachers are being exiled from the cities where they’re particularly needed and supposedly wanted while urban cores become little more than desolate stacks of steel and glass investment boxes for the Haves.

All this came to my attention via a story at Hyperallergic about an unspeakably ghastly KRW 418 million (£236,800 or $361,000) Gangnam Style sculpture planned for the eponymous district of Seoul. Somebody should tell these property developers that viral YouTube hits are often really hard to explain even at the time, let alone in a few years when everyone will be saying “Si who? Horse riding hands? What?”

Talking of PSY and WTF-ness, it is perhaps telling that Amnesty International appear to have deleted the page on their site that formerly pertained to the Gangnam for Freedom video made in 2012 by Anish Kapoor and Friends [sic… obviously he doesn’t have any friends]. You can watch it if you like. I can’t watch it again. I just can’t. It’s so embarrassing it makes my whole face invert and my testicles retract all the way up into my lungs. The Chinese government was obviously rocked by Kapoor and overpaid staff members from irrelevant 1% bauble galleries like the Serpentine and MoMA dancing like toddlers to a novelty record about chatting up an attractive woman* and that’s why they immediately let Ai Wei Wei and other people who are actually serious dissidents out of… oh, wait. No they didn’t. THEY DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT AND JUST KEPT ON OPPRESSING ARTISTS, JOURNALISTS, ACTIVISTS AND AUTHORS WITH COMPLETE IMPUNITY.

And now the video is overlaid with the irony that PSY accuses artists who criticise him of libel and takes them to court.

(I know, by the way, that Kapoor and Friends were responding to a video by Ai Wei Wei which also (mis)used Gangnam Style… his video was also lame, embarrassing and demonstrated a high schooler’s level of political and artistic sophistication.)

UPDATE, December 2015:

Über-LOL at the video– which had been there since 2012, mostly unseen and always unloved– mysteriously disappearing within a few weeks of me blogging about it. I think people still don’t believe me when I say that the art world top table grownups read this blog, but they are totally hate-reading it all the time. Although ultimately I think it’s better if nobody else ever has to watch the video because it’s so sphincter-puckeringly ghastly, I also can’t help feeling it’s a shame the video is gone now. Thanks for reading, though, Big A! Keep on dancing like you forgot what arms are, you dotty old thing.

(More GIFs from the video here.)


(* English translation of the Gangnam Style lyrics. Why bother using an instrumental version– which exists, because I checked– to avoid conflicting messages, when lyrics like these go so perfectly with a protest about freedom of speech? The answer is that Anish Kapoor and Friends are intellectual pygmies and hacks, probably.

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now lets go until the end

Uncle is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Uncle is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Uncle is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Uncle is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensible girl like that

I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy.)


31 Jul

monopoly manVia artist Mimei Thompson on the F***book, news of a property developer soon to be bulldozing over a hundred artist studios near Hackney Road in London. They’ll be replaced by a twenty storey tower with “workspace” (whatever that is) and 170 homes including “a number of affordable”. Britain’s cities and towns desperately need more and better housing accessible to everyone regardless of their income, but we all know what the “number” of affordable units will be: as few as possible, probably with a separate door so the poors don’t rub their poor all over the investment/money laundering boxes of all the Chinese, Russian and Arab one percenters who are just about the only people who can buy these places. Affordable is a laughably– and conveniently– ill-defined and slippery developers’ term anyway.

Don’t worry, though, the loss of this artist community (who stupidly, inconveniently brought life to a rundown area and made it attractive to developers in the first place) will not go unmarked. The developers and Eastside Educational Trust are offering a princely £1000 sculpture prize. “The winning artist will receive funds to make their sculpture, as well as a £1,000 cash prize, and the exciting chance to have their piece exhibited as a public work of art.” It’s probably not conscious, but note that they avoid the word “work” in favour of the word “piece”. The page linked here gives the number of new homes as “over 200”. An attempt to contact them about the prize met with– oops or not oops?– an out of office autoreply stating that the person responsible wouldn’t be back until the second week of August. That’s how bothered they are in whether artists actually apply for it or not, anyway. UPDATE: See below.

Continue reading


31 Jul

Image from the somewhat surreal http://www.thebollardshop.com. Get your Slough-style bollards there. Is it just me, or does the lack of scale references in this image and the way they’re clustered together suggest another, more “adult” type of web store?

Via Artquest, who themselves wryly and slyly editorialise that it’s “a load of bollards”, another fine opportunity to work for nothing and to create a hideous public eyesore courtesy of Lambeth council:

“We are removing hundreds of metal bollards from our streets in London Borough of Lambeth as a de-cluttering exercise. In the current batch of works, the number would be close to a thousand, and we will be removing many more in near future. These will be recycled by our highways contractor, unless we find a better use for them.

‘If anyone would like to use these bollards for some public art / sculpture, they would be more than welcome to have them for free, but we would like the artwork to be installed in Lambeth. If someone can come up with an idea for their use in public furniture, such as seating, planters, etc. then it would be another good use. Occasionally we also find some very old bollards with unusual designs and sizes.”

So let’s recap:

You’re de-cluttering the streets by removing functional bollards, then immediately looking to re-clutter the streets with “close to a thousand” non-functional bollards.

Lambeth Council apparently thinks public art and sculpture consists of just piling up old crap. You’re a local authority, not an Etsy vendor or a home makeover TV show. “Yeah, so I jazzed up this boring courtyard area with some art made from upcycled bollards…”

Planters? Perhaps you could give us some clues as to how one would turn a bollard into a planter? Do you have any idea what plants (or indeed bollards) are and how they work?

Of course there’s no mention of money, whether it’s the money they’re presumably trying to stiff their contractors of by not having them dispose of the bollards, or the money that a local authority should pay to an artist when they commission a work of public art from her or him. For reference, the same bulletin at Artquest also has advertisements for legitimate public art commissions in Belfast with a budget of about £40,000, and in Swansea with budgets of between £40,000 and £100,000. Do you know why? Because that’s what it costs in order to have a professional artist and the team of people who support that artist design, fabricate and install a major work of art in a public place so it will be durable, suitably sited and safe.

PS: The owner of monomaniacal blog Bollards of London is going to be seriously pissed off that they’re doing away with a thousand bollards.


21 May


‘Rubber Duck’, like its maker Florentjin Hofman’s other work, is daft, kitsch, intellectually undemanding and entirely uncool. Yet its value, I think, lies in precisely these attributes. When was the last time the work of any artist celebrated on the front cover of Art Review or Frieze aroused general excitement, civic pride, despair at the prospect of it going away, or “limitless amounts of joy”? This last comment is from a discussion at the governmental level about the widespread positive fallout from Hofman’s avowed attempt to spread this joy. I certainly don’t think art can be or should be uniformly subjected to tests of popularity or popularism, but I also think that somebody except the artist and their friends should care about and connect with an art work.

Until recently the 16m tall duck was floating between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Although described by the artist as a contemporary art work, which it is, the duck was brought to Hong Kong by a shopping mall as a promotional stunt. It’s very healthy that absolutely nobody seems at all interested in the sponsors and that the artist and his duck have gained far more publicity and kudos than the mall.

I say “until recently” because the joy came to an abrupt end when this happened:

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And it happened amid accusations of cigarette attacks by mainland China’s notoriously uncouth, vulgar tourists, the enmity of “duck haters” (yes, really) and various other conspiracy theories of the kind that run wild on Sina Weibo and its ilk whenever they get going on any subject even tangentially involving relations between Hong Kong and China. The most likely genuine explanation is environmental stress from the wind and waves, although the eventual face-saving Chinese style explanation was planned maintenance, i.e. “no, no, it’s not a PR disaster, we meant to do it.”

People had been coming from hundreds of miles away to see it, with a collateral commercial impact on everyone from street hawkers with yellow bath ducks (almost certainly made in neighbouring Shenzhen, the world’s factory) to hotels offering “duck view” hotel rooms. Rubber Duck’s untimely demise left many locals as jocularly or genuinely distraught as the Weibo user who wrote “Don’t die! I still haven’t had the chance to make a pilgrimage and come worship you, big yellow duck.”

Now let’s try to imagine anybody apart from their friends who work as curators or at art magazines giving a single, tiny fuck about the joyous arrival or the sad premature departure of absolutely any of the formulaic work done recently by critical young darlings like Haroon Mirza, Karla Black or Elizabeth Price who can apparently do no wrong…

OK, put down your pens, time is up. Anything? No, me neither.


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