No, no, NO! It’s hard to know where to begin criticising Anish Kapoor’s projected ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit‘, a 115-metre tall red steel tower to be constructed on the site of London’s Olympic Village. But here’s two reasons straight up: firstly, it is no more and no less than an enormous monument to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, the richest man in Europe. The rhetoric of constructing this on a site on which the entire world’s attention will be focused for an entire summer cannot be ignored, never mind the fact that Mittal will generate revenue from the restaurant that is set to be built at the top. Secondly, it would not have even reached the planning stages if British politics was not such an old boy’s club:
‘Johnson said he got Mittal on board as a result of a chance meeting in a cloakroom at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He spent 40 seconds outlining the concept and Mittal immediately said he would provide the steel.’ (Guardian, 31/03/10)
Thirdly, and finally (for now, at least), it is an entirely reactionary gesture. Look at the comparisons people are making – the Colossus, the Great Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower. Should we not be straining to grow out of this desire to ceremonially construct enormous, authoritarian monoliths? The plans for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad point to a bright new future for public art, one where major commissions do not merely aim to impress but to engage and to empower. By investing in this supreme gesture of international capitalism’s power over the city, Kapoor appears to be retreating into the dark ages.
by Daniel Davies and Luke Healey