Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Day return

They're having another of those debates about public art tonight at the National Gallery. On the radio this morning they were talking about what happens when such projects go wrong and fell upon the example of the vast sculpture of the parting lovers at St Pancras. Londoners don't agree on much but if there were a show of hands right now it would clearly be removed.

Joan Bakewell's objections to it were that the couple were in modern dress, it was too big and it was somehow kitsch. I don't disagree with any of that but I also wonder if we are living in an age in which we are never going to agree about representational pieces of any kind.

For a start they're supposed to be saying a tender, heartfelt farewell. Do you still see that? You used to see people weeping all the time at railway stations. I'm not sure that's the case anymore. You see it at airports maybe, when Mum and Dad are returning to India and there's a chance the grandchildren will never see them again. But a young couple parting at St Pancras? They're going to be texting each other while she's on the way through Kent and they'll be on Skype as soon as she's in Paris. And anyway, she's coming back tomorrow, isn't she?


  1. Anonymous8:28 am

    Visited St Pancras for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it seems that I agree with the majority of Londoners on something. I don't like the sculpture of the parting lovers either . . . however the John Betjeman is rather wonderful :

    Simon James x

  2. Anonymous8:49 am

    I was quite impressed with it, despite my reservations.
    However, I was somewhat disappointed that you can't see up her skirt properly.

  3. The modern dress thing is a problem. It's going to date very badly. Statues shouldn't really date.

    It's impressive though, just for the sheer scale of it.

  4. Anonymous11:12 am

    The fellow's in a suit and the woman's in a skirt - how 'modern' is that? And what's the alternative?

    If "modern dress" "dates" a statue, then that's all of them except the nudes, isn't it?

    Is Nelson "dated", and therefore redundant?

    I like the St. Pancras statue - the scale, and the romantiicism, at least - just not the chocolate brown colour.

    DH is right about not seeing people weeping anymore, but I presumed the statue was deliberately nostalgic/romantic - in keeping with the reconstruction of the station itself. It may not be backward-looking stylistically, but in the reconfiguring of it as a huge, dramatic building, like wot stations used to be.

  5. No, because most statues are of people in uniforms, not civilian clothes. Uniforms may date too, but somehow that's okay.

    I know what I mean, anyway.

  6. Three cheers for good old fashion British cynicism that's what I say.

    He'll be down the nightclub that night trying to pick up someone else whilst the cats away I reckon.

  7. That empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. I’m seriously considering getting up a petition for a statue of Morecambe & Wise (in the classic one leg kicked-back pose). It’s probably the last thing the British public really agreed about.
    Don’t have any objection to the military statues (as lots of people seem to for some reason) but it would be nice to commemorate people who cheered us all up.

  8. I am happy to live with Alyson Lapper on the empty plinth; rather sensual and sexy, I think.

  9. I like the empty plinth being a rotating space, the debate it generates is fun and if something is rotten it's gone in 18 months.

  10. Churchill in Parliament Square is not in uniform but looks rather magnificent. And Betjemen in St Pancras is in "modern" dress too and is also rather good (and well liked it seems). So I do not buy this modern dress being bad - as with all art, it will be of its time. If it is thought to be good, then that will apply whatever the style of dress and vice versa. Ultimately we are just too near it to appreciate it yet - give it 20 years to settle in and then review.

  11. Anonymous8:36 pm

    I like the fact that "another" is link-highlighted in Dave's original piece, i.e. "God help us, ANOTHER of those debates". St Pancras, which I walk past every day, is as successful an architectural venture as any in the capital in recent memory, and very close to being awe-inspiring once you're inside. And all the wooden-tops can whinge on about is the art that adorns it. I thought any decent art was meant to divide opinion; it would be deathly dull if it didn't. It's like saying the Sydney Opera House is all right, but those aboriginal paintings in the foyer are well rubbish.