Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When good art turns bad

The B of the Bang is a public sculpture in disgrace. Created by artist Thomas Heatherwick for the city of Manchester its pointy spikes were intended to represent the energy of a sprinter coming out of the blocks. Its terrible title comes from sprinter Linford Christie who once said he took off from her blocks on the B of Bang. Unfortunately the spikes had a habit of plummeting to the ground, a habit they formed only days after the sculpture was launched. Although no-one was impaled Omen-like it was considered too arbitrary and too controversial to have a public sculpture taking occasional pot shots at anyone fearless enough to take a stroll under its spiky presence. Taking the 56 meter sculpture apart has been a gas-axe job from heaven and the spikes have now all gone to recycling. All this, one suspects, was a cheaper job than the $3.5 million dollar commissioning cost and run on maintenance of around $750,000. The City did manage to claw back $4.2 million from the contractors but it has been bad PR for the sculpture industry. A local MP got about as much as you could hope from the mess saying, “It's been a very expensive waste of public money. But it's certainly been a topic of conversation for a lot of people, so in that sense it's been a successful piece of art."
Images: Top, the B of Bang coming down (Photograph by Mike Peel - Bottom left, glory days, right, weirdly prescient Omen priest, attempts to ward off fast approaching steeple lightening rod.