Westminster launched its first City of Sculpture Festival in October 2010 working with the Grosvenor property group, to promote art across the city, including Berkeley Square, Hanover Square, Golden Square, Soho Square and Leicester Square, ahead of the Olympics. It will include temporary installations and placements of contemporary and traditional sculpture from international artists supported and paid for by private galleries as part of the rolling arts programme from 2010 – 2012.
More than 60 pieces of art are to be placed in outdoor locations including a 33-ft 6-tonne bronze horse’s head by Nic Fiddian-Green, and a family of jelly babies, Jelly Baby Family, by Mauro Perucchetti at Marble Arch; a 15-ft sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn on Park Lane, Vroom Vroom, a black Fiat Cinquecento grasped in a bronze child’s hand; American sculptor, Jedd Novatt’s 13-ft high abstract bronze sculpture Chaos Mundaka was sited at Brown Harts Gardens, Mayfair for six months. The most recent work is Jeff Lowe’s Berkeley Square, in Berkeley Square, displayed from June to September 2011.
While it is vaguely interesting to see a range of large-scale works appearing and disappearing from the centre of London it is a leviathan of an enterprise and reminiscent of philanthropic art exhibitions of the 1950s, 60s and 70s when art was parachuted in to the huddled masses in deprived urban streets to provide educational and spiritual enlightenment for the artistically impoverished.
The City of Westminster scheme is funded by the wealthier artists and galleries and the work tends to be monumental. It is neither interesting contemporary art or sympathetic to London’s communities and environs. Cllr Alastair Moss, chairman of the planning applications sub committee is quoted as saying, “This will further enhance Westminster’s reputation as the home of some of the world’s most famous art, which can be viewed not only in our vast array of galleries but also in the public art on our streets.” My view is that, while it must be attractive as a free public exhibition for Westminster City Council, the hyperactive and temporary nature of the scheme means that the long term impact is minimal and there can be no real significance to the programme. The 4th plinth does it so much better.
Images from top: Mauro Perucchetti, Jelly Baby Family; Nic Fiddian-Green; Lorenzo Quinn, Vroom Vroom, Jedd Novatt’, Chaos Mundaka, Jeff Lowe, Berkeley Square.