As at the start of every year, there are things in the art calendar I’m really looking forward to and things I’ll go out of my way to avoid seeing. Oddly, this year the two things that immediately spring to mind are both public art commissions related to the forthcoming Olympics and both take the form of a tower of sorts. One – Anthony McCall’s Column – I’m ready to travel half the length of the country for despite knowing its ephemeral presence may disappear in some weathers. Sadly, unlike the last work I saw by the same artist, the other – Anish Kapoor’s Orbit – will be all too visible.
Column by Anthony McCall (best known for his solid light works, which I have written about before) has been commissioned as part of the Artists Taking the Lead, Cultural Olympiad programme and will be installed on Merseyside (in the disused Morpeth Dock in Birkenhead). The work will take the form of a column of cloud rising as far as the eye can see and potentially visible from up to 60 miles away on a good day. Possibly a foolishly ambitious undertaking, I am willing Column to work and to really live up to its potential.
Would that it were otherwise, here in London we are getting Anish Kapoor’s Orbit. A wonky red Meccano helter-skelter, at 115m, Orbit will be 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty and nearly six times the height of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. And it’s ugly. Really ugly. Reading about Orbit in the newspaper in 2010 when it was announced that the commission had been awarded to Kapoor I was initially optimistic that this must be an April Fool. I’ve yet to see Orbit up close and I’m hoping to keep it that way for as long as possible. The last work of Kapoor’s I saw, Ascension shown in Venice during the 2011 Biennale, a column of smoke rising from floor to ceiling in the Basilica di San Giorgio was similar to McCall’s Column in some respects. I’m hoping for a crucial difference. Kapoor’s piece – beautiful in those fleeting seconds when it worked – was plagued by technical difficulties and surrounded by intently staring visitors struggling to actually see the art. Would that Orbit might mimic this behaviour.