Public Art Anectodes


Anish Kapoor’s red, twisted ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture in London’s Queen Elizabeth Park (nicknamed “Boris’s Folly”) might have been “one of the standout successes of the 2012 Olympic Games”, but it is certainly not a financial triumph having lost £10,000 a week last year. Rising to the soaring height of 114.5 metres and outstripping even the Statue of Liberty by two metres, the ArcelorMittal Orbit boasts an impressive compendium of statistics: 1,500 tonnes of steel, 35,000 bolts, 19,000 litres of paint, 770 visitors per hour / 5,000 per day, vistas of 20 miles into the distance, and a overall price-tag of £22.7million, £19.6million of which was funded by ArcelorMittal.  Visitors to the Queen Elizabeth Park can pay £10 per person to go up the tower and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) predicted revenues from this would bring in an annual profit of £1.2m.

Another series of facts: 3,400 Bosniaks and Croats from Prijedor went missing or were killed during 1992, the summer of the massacre. At least 3,334 were imprisoned in the camp at Omarska, 700-800 were exterminated, 37 female detainees were repeatedly raped and tortured, upwards of 150 men singled out daily for execution. Still missing – 1,000 men, women, and children from the Prijedor region. The facts and figures of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the towering showpiece of London’s 2012 Olympics, are tragically intertwined with the history of war crimes that took place on the very grounds from which ArcelorMittal subsequently began to extract not only its soaring global profits but iron ore that the Director of ArcelorMittal Prijedor boasts has been used in the construction of the Orbit. Although these two sets of data mirror each as extraordinary statistics attached to contemporary events, they are not connected to each other in a relationship of cause and effect but through a chain of associations and a series of responsibilities not faced and thus acted upon.




The entire world was watching as politicians poured into Paris  to decide the future of the Earth. But you might have missed was going on outside the summit, where dozens of activists and artists transformed the city with installations about climate change.

Many of the protests and marches that would normally go on during the COP21 summit had been cancelled by the French government after the terrorist attacks on November 13th–but both organized and independent groups of artists and activists were still transforming public spaces in Paris with installations and art. There’s even an organized festival devoted to climate change installations, called ArtCOP21, responsible for work from street artists like JR and Shepard Fairey to the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.

Together  transformed Paris with work that ranges from beautiful, infuriating, and sad, to very, very clever. Take a look.

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There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.

John F. Kennedy