Supersize Me

When it comes to public sculpture, it would seem that we have not lost the ability to think big. But beautiful might be a problem. Anish Kapoor’s mind-numbingly banal Olympic tower will be defended and loved by those who defend and love the new on principle. They will doubtless drone on about boundaries being broken etc etc, apparently unaware that those boundaries melted away long, long ago. The retrospective argument will as usual be deployed, ie, that everybody hated the Eiffel Tower when it first went up, and look at it now, blah blah.

To build big and for the ages, you need confidence. Ours in Europe has been at a low ebb for some time now. Just as worrying however is the decline in judgement, the loss of trust in our instincts. Our cultural and political elites are guided now simply by the desire not to appear elitist, or inaccessible. Having thoroughly deconstructed themselves, these elites fear aspiration and inspiration in others. They no longer know which way to turn, so the objects they commission end up being loathed by everybody either for their sheer, pointless ugliness or their ingratiating kitsch quality – (take the Meeting Place in St.Pancras Station, or Moscow’s hated Peter the Great).

These tawdry monuments to the new dark age strike even the untutored eye as somehow silly: flashy, literal-minded but with no substance or staying-power. They are like the special effects in films. The best that we can hope for is that are ignored, unphotographed, and allowed to rust away. And then, eventually, pulled down.    

An autumn note

“For many, the end of this uneasy year cannot come quickly enough”

An ordinary killing

Ian Cobain’s book uses the killing of Millar McAllister to paint a meticulous portrait of the Troubles

Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens
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