A recent trip to Kingston Upon Thames reacquainted us with this delightful/baffling/jaw-dropping sculpture. The train of 12 phone boxes topple onto one another like dominoes. A chin-strokey art critic might see it as symbolic of the booth's demise with the advent of the mobile phone.
Actually, the David Mach sculpture pre-dates the widespread adoption of mobiles by more than a decade. Known as 'Out of Order', it was installed at the western end of Old London Road in 1989.
The work has divided people ever since — a hallmark of great art. One only has to turn to TripAdvisor to get a taste of the opinion. "If this is so called art then most rubbish dumps are," reckons John RSS of Richmond. "There are loads of excellent reasons to visit Kingston, but this is not one of them," offers local resident johnnykipps.
Most people seem to like it, though. "Bellissima creazione artistica, very english," says one visitor from Italy. "A wonderfully wonky piece which nicely offsets some of the more routine sights of this town," adds a local voice.
The sculpture has proved tricky to maintain over the years. It's attracted litter, rodents, drug paraphernalia and graffiti. The tumbling booths have seen off NIMBY campaigns and cack-handed resprays (warning: Daily Mail link). But here they stand, and fall, three decades on. Just as the red phone box is an icon of Britain, Out of Order is now symbolic of Kingston.