Magazine article Art Monthly

Boris's Wotsit

Magazine article Art Monthly

Boris's Wotsit

Article excerpt

'If Paris can have the Eiffel Tower, then we thought the Olympic site had to have ... [looks hurriedly at notes] ... something!' So London mayor Boris Johnson unveiled Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit, an observation tower for London's Olympic Park. The 19.1m [pounds sterling] project will receive 3.1m [pounds sterling] from the mayor's London Development Agency and up to 16m [pounds sterling] sponsorship (the in-kind supply of 1,400 tonnes of steel) from the world's largest steel company ArcelorMittal-hence a title that suggests, perhaps rightly, that the entire Olympic project merely orbits around multinational conglomerates. According to Johnson, he first proposed the sponsorship deal when he bumped into the billionaire chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal, 'in a cloakroom in Davos last year'--yes, that really is the way things work.

Johnson had previously put the call out that he wanted a landmark structure for the site (Artnotes AM332), stipulating that the folly should be at least 100m high and 'iconic' enough to compete with the Eiffel Tower. About 50 proposals were submitted and the jury, including Nicholas Serota, selected this collaboration between Kapoor and Arup's deputy chairman Cecil Balmond.

While some of Kapoor's work has been criticised for being pleasant but insipid--the 'what's not to like?' syndrome--for this skyline-altering permanent commission, and taking his cue perhaps from the striking but ugly 2012 logo, he has chosen to offer spectacular awkwardness: a tower that appears unstable. Modern computer modelling and engineering techniques allow for dramatically cantilevered structures but, like the under-construction 'walkie talkie' building in the City of London, such cutting-edge techniques can have a controversial effect on city skylines. This concern was noted by Will Wiles, senior editor at Icon magazine, who wrote of Orbit: 'My immediate reaction was "fucking hell". Instant and powerful dislike, coupled with instant horror: not a bad reaction to a work of art, but much less desirable in a structure that I think will be visible from my bedroom.'

The design clearly follows on from the elongated red trumpet forms of Kapoor's previous large-scale works, such as Taratantara, 2000, and Marsyas, 2002. …

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