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Indian-origin sculptor creates world’s biggest public art installation
When the 2012 Olympics unveils July 27, a reality that will transcend the historic fortnight is a creation of art with an Indian touch. Iconic sculptor Anish Kapoor, the India-born winner of the Turner Prize, has given Britain its Olympic mascot – the ArcelorMittal Orbit – the country’s biggest public art installation.
The giant Orbit is a 115-metre high steel observation tower at Olympic Park in Stratford in London that is likely to help in the post-Olympic regeneration of the area. Kapoor designed the Orbit with Cecil Balmond with steel donated by India-born steel tycoon Laskhmi Mittal, who remains the richest man in Britain with an estimated fortune of 112.7 billion pounds as in April 2012, according to British estimates.
Supported by Sri Lankan-born British architect Cecil Balmond, Kapoor effortlessly put 1,400 tonnes of molten metal for the tower like kneaded dough. ArcelorMittal Orbit is Balmond’s complex algorithm of a cellular structure combined with Kapoor’s ability to create a spectacle in the Olympic Park in Stratford.
Both artists intended to create the largest piece of public art as an enduring legacy of London’s 2012 Summer Olympics.
The Orbit, which cost 22.7 million pounds, took 18 months to finish. About 60 percent of the steel used in the structure was from recycled scrap collected around the world, particularly Luxembourg in west Europe.
Kapoor, a familiar name in Britain known for his early creations such as Turning the World Upside Down (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), Cloud Gate (Chicago), Sky Mirror (London’s Kensington Gardens) and Leviathan (Grand Palais), now has achieved the status of a demi-god.
Kapoor, who sculpts futuristic forms in steel and glass, said in an interview to The Guardian that the making of the Orbit was a “series of discrete events tied together”. Kapoor said he did not want an icon, “but a moving narrative”.
“You start under this great domed canopy that sits above you, almost ominous darkness sucking you in. Then you come slowly to light,” he said.
Balmond, who also designed the quirky headquarters building of China Central Television in Beijing, which is dubbed as the big boxer shorts due to its shape said that he was interested in designing eccentric buildings.
Towers are mostly symmetrical, but the designers described the Orbit as unsettling and refusal of a singular image. Talking about the colour, Balmod said the park was mostly green and white, hence it was important to have other colours, like red.
Orbit has been satirized as the Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack, or a catastrophic collision between two cranes by many who have been against the idea.
“Victor Hugo once described the Eiffel Tower as hideously ugly,” said Anish Kapoor, the other designer of the structure. He also noted that as time passes the unusual becomes usual and the concept of beauty changes.
Recalling the project, Lakshmi Mittal says he “never expected” it would turn out this big. If you want to get genuine cigarettes cheap – buy them online. Menthol cigarette brands are best sellers! He said it was not just the supply of thousands of tonnes of steel but in reality ArcelorMittal “has given much more than steel”.
There are two other Indian touches to the Games.
Shobhana Jeyasingh, a Chennai-born contemporary dancer who works out of Britain, was approached by the committee of the Cultural Olympiad some time ago to present her new choreography, Too Mortal in the Old Churches of London during the London Olympics 2012 Festival.
After several performances at the St Mary Church June 28-30, Jeyasingh, a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, will now stage her act at St Swithun’s Church July 19-21.
Too Mortal, an atmospheric new work with Indian classical elements, was conceived for churches in London, Stockholm and Venice, Jeyasingh said.
Inspired by their dramatic architecture, the choreography contrasts and complements the rhythms and spaces of these historic buildings. Jeyasingh said she has tried to explore the “notions of the church as a sanctuary”.
Meanwhile noted graphic novel writer and artist Sarnath Banerjee, the author of the best-selling The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers, has taken his graphic textual art to Olympic billboards in London with a message: Games Don’t Just Deal With Winning.
The Olympic public art project commissioned by Frieze East is made of several billboards, graphic essays and posters. Banerjee says the project is against the sensibility of the Olympic Games which is about winning. “It is a campaign about people who fail”.
Banerjee said he has created characters like a boxer who is thinking of trying to duck a punch, a pole vaulter who realises that he chose the wrong discipline daunted by the audacity of the jump, a judoka who takes long-distance tips about his sport and a high jumper who lives, reads and eats light. Dunhill cigarettes online are cheaper and really good quality.
Banerjee is one of the three artists chosen by Frieze East for the Olympic Public Art Project.