There did seem to be a lot of art and cultural events going on outside this year, in no small measure due to the Olympic effect. The Cultural Olympiad funded a host of events around the country, mainly to politically offset the London-centric nature of the Olympics and Paralympics. Calling the cultural programme The London 2012 Festival did not really help though! This did not necessarily produce a lot of great art but it did involve a lot of people in creating it and participating and so I guess should be seen as a success from that point of view. Judging by recent announcements of cuts to arts funding by various local authorities it may not have had any long term effect though in improving the standing of the arts.
In the art, design and exhibitions category for me the most entertaining work was Jeremy Deller‘s Sacrilege – the bouncy Stonehenge – which was both highly interactive and also conceptually brilliant. It toured widely around the country appearing in places such as the National Botanic Gardens in Wales, Glasgow, and Hampstead Heath in London where I went to see it. The Fife Psychogeographical Collective wrote an entertaining and erudite analysis on their blog.
I am not a fan of the Anish Kapoor in the Olympic Park, but I was impressed by the Olympic Cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick. I had an excellent view of it in action from my seat at the Paralympics, when I finally succumbed to a visit to the Olympic Park. Heatherwick also had an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum for which a traffic cone canopy appeared on the front of the building.
Having also included the David Nash exhibition at Kew Gardens in my Part 1, I shall just mention here the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, which were a modest but effective interpretation, reminding me rather of seaside Floral Clock type displays. The lighting displays on the bridges over the Thames in central London were quite beautiful and I still intend to do some paintings, although they will have to be based on my photos.
I wish I could have seen Hadrian’s Wall lit up and the Peace Camp poetry tents around the coast also part of the London 2012 Festival, but even with my penchant for trailing around the country for culture I didn’t manage it!
I now see that another favourite, the temporary Serpentine Pavilion, this one by Ai Weiwei and Herzog and De Meuron, was this year under the banner of the London 2012 Festival. I wrote about this as well as the completely amazing Memory Marathon held in a geodesic dome adjacent to the Pavilion, and so counting as outside art in my mind. The Serpentine Gallery also scored another hit with the Thomas Schütte exhibition which included ‘United Enemies’, rather creepy figures outside the gallery.
The Oxfam/Marks and Spencer Schwopping campaign showed an imaginative use of old clothes for their publicity launch in Brick Lane in the East End.
Bloomsbury Square in London was the focal point of the Bloomsbury Festival, over a weekend in October, which also included many temporary artworks such as the Merz type building I wrote about in one of my most popular blog posts of the year. The opening parade on a wet Friday evening featured atmospherically fishy creations by local schoolchildren as well as other installations based on the collections of the Grant Museum of Zoology.
I think my favourite new and permanent outside art work, from an aesthetic point of view, is the addition to the exterior of the Whitechapel Gallery by Rachel Whiteread, bringing a touch of Vienna 1900 to the East End.
- London 2012 Festival enjoyed by 20m (guardian.co.uk)
- Funding ends for column of steam (bbc.co.uk)
- Best art exhibitions of 2012, No 6 – Jeremy Deller: Joy in People (guardian.co.uk)
- A Case For Culture – England loses 30% of its arts council budget #CaseForCulture (nicolaanthony.wordpress.com)
- Arts leaders to launch campaign showing the power of culture (standard.co.uk)