St Pancras Frieze Frozen

Lindsey
By Lindsey Last edited 112 months ago
St Pancras Frieze Frozen
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At the weekend, we gave you a heads up about furore over a controversial frieze commissioned by London and Continental Railways to adorn the base of the gargantuan "Meeting Place" statue, upstairs at St Pancras International. Designs unveiled at the station on Friday and much to the surprise of the Head of LCR, featured - among other things - the grim reaper, a commuter plummeting into the path of a train, a couple shagging up against a wall and punters giving the finger to the world at large.

Although LCR commissioned artist Julian Day to create the frieze and liaised with him on designs, head honcho, Rob Holden was not kept in the loop and has halted proress on the offending artwork, presumably apoplectic and worrying about his share price, deeming it "completely unsuitable". Day, on the other hand, is still hopeful of a way forward, saying he is "not an artist who seeks to shock".

Whilst we can understand how some people might find some of the figures in the frieze inappropriate in situ at a major international rail terminus, that hugely bland sculpture of a business couple kissing definitely needs some spunking up. A tragicomic frieze, depicting a more realistic, if nightmarish, vision of life, commuting and travel in the 21st Century at its base could go some way towards redressing the balance and injecting a bit of grit and realism into the immaculately clean and high end St Pancras complex. People do throw themselves in front of trains, there are rude people at train stations. Folks do snog energetically before parting and there are drunken tramps in residence, no matter how many Pain Quotidien's you install on your concourse. We're sorry that LCR's main man can't see beyond knee jerk reactions and obvious weigh-ins from the Samaritans and train drivers' union ASLEF and it's a shame he can't be proud of his company's vision in commissioning something with originality, edge, wit and wisdom to spice up St Pancras.

Image courtesy of ignacio izquierdo via the Londonist Flickrpool.

Last Updated 14 October 2008

macaonghus

Yes, the giant statue is a bit bland, but it is also not the right place to put such a shocking frieze. This part of St Pancras does not aspire to be a normal railway station, but the terminus for journeys to/from the most romantic city in the world. The Paris that LCR "sells" is the one of baguettes and Eiffel and the Marais; they have no obligation to tell you about ethnic riots or depressing banlieues, and likewise have no obligation to tell you about the dirtier aspects of rail journeys. They would argue that even if such scenes as the frieze depicts were accurate, they are much more representative of domestic travel than the Eurostar.

The Eurostar is one of the last few hints of the long-gone romance of transportation, let's leave the shock art out of it.

paulcox

To be fair, some of the imagery that has the press up in arms, like the middle finger, was "simply an example of his work on show for the art event and not intended to be part of the frieze." I don't think a final design for the frieze actually exists-- it was all concepts.

I think it could easily have been toned down a bit in the final draft and served as a nice, non-bland bit of art, but it was too much of a temptation to the Mail and went all political.

Kingpin

If the shagging people and the various depictions of other anti-social behaviour were to be included then I'm glad the LCR are shooting this down. The station's gone through a wonderful regeneration, so why spoil it with a lasting monument to the chav and the slow decline of the country's standards?

The station is surely meant to showcase the best this country can produce... how is this frieze supposed to embody the best of the British?

Lindsey

@Kingpin - I agree wholeheartedly about the regeneration but don't we Brits pride ourselves on a sense of humour, a taste for satire and such? Undermine the snoggers, I say. They do sweet FA to enhance the undeniable romance of the cross Channel train.

@macaonghus - Paris might have a reputation as the most romantic city in the world but seediness underpins every city, certainly London. St Pancras is in danger of being slipping into bland sanitisation (actually, do you work for LCR?) Also, St Pancras isn't all about Eurostar. Domestic trains run too.

And generally... is that frieze really that shocking? The designs I've seen in the papers give a whole range of figures, situations and expressions... pretty interesting.

BraveNewMalden

Looking forward to a frieze of a plummeting Concorde at Charles de Gaulle, a sculpture of burnt human forms 'alighting' at Kings Cross and some Warholesque tinned sardines at Moorgate.

I mean, just what reaction did Mr Day expect?