As part of our mayoral election coverage this week, Londonist is looking into the issue of arts and culture.
On Wednesday, we looked at the different attitudes and policies of the two frontrunners in the race, Ken and Boris. What is striking about the mayor’s role and culture is how limited it is. There’s a bit of lobbying and some direct funding, but compared to transport and crime, for example, the mayor is in a supporting role.
Where influence is clearest, however, is on outdoor art and events. Indeed, some of Boris’s and Ken’s most visible successes have stemmed from the realm of public art. For Ken, that was the championing of the Fourth Plinth series, which, it is safe to say, is much loved by Londoners. Yinka Shonibare’s beautiful ship in a bottle, opening this week’s Friday Photos, has arguably been the most popular work of art on the plinth thus far. Boris’s flagship piece of city furniture, meanwhile, is the red steel sculpture in the Olympic Park by Anish Kapoor.
While these projects gain the highest profile, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the mayor does inject capital investment into very select projects, here represented by the Herzog & de Meuron extension to the Tate Modern (a modest £7m, but there you go) and the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, with Boris finding a crucial £1m for the project.
Elsewhere, the mayor’s relationship with culture is all about parades and public parties (the saints’ days, national days etc), events that bring in tourist pounds and promote London’s internationalism.
And finally, our last image looks back to Ken’s Rise Festival, brutally culled by Boris after his 2008 victory. This image of Rise, with one punter unable to physically stand up, let alone stand up against racism, isn’t the most inspiring. But who knows, perhaps Rise Festival might return if Ken triumphs in May.
With thanks to Londonist Flickr pool contributors: JudyGr, firstnameunknown, KenJonBro, jp3g, Andy Wilkes, Rodents rule, Joe Dunckley, asw909, and Luke Robinson. Tate Modern extension credit to Hayes Davidson & de Meuron.