Passing though town I happened upon the newly erected fourth plinth statue in Trafalgar Square. No doubt some dignitaries had been there earlier in the morning, but by 1pm there was just a podium, some bouncers and a golden boy on a golden rocking horse high up on the plinth. Here it is.

It’s called Powerless Structures, Fig.101, but I’m going to call it the Golden Rocking Horse and Boy. That’s the best way to approach public art. For me.

I’ve seen the Ship in a Bottle, the People, the Little Jesus, the Airman, the Pregnant Armless Lady, the Upside-Down Plinth, and the Bird Hotel.

Here’s another picture. This time more of a Shadow Rocking Horse and Boy.

Here’s the blurb:

Let the mayor know what you think. If you want.

Here’s what I think; it’s ok.

Here’s what it’s up against:

The Golden Rocking Horse Boy thing is ok. It’s not bad. But I’ll be happier when the Big Blue Cock’s up there.

Image courtesy of (ie. stolen from) Art History News

What’s your favourite? Please vote.

take less

December 7, 2011

It’s a shame, isn’t it, that we may lose Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle to a Korean millionaire. It’s been on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square since May 2010. But in January 2012, like a New Year’s Sail, everything must go.

Where though?

An article in the guardian by Maev Kennedy sets out the dilemma. The unnamed Korean millionaire wants it as a garden ornament (so we’re told – damn those unnamed uncultured foreign millionaires and their fancy private garden desires!) But, there is the chance of saving it and moving it down the Thames to a new home at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Perfect, no?

All we have to do is buy it.

A charity has been set up to do just that. The mystery Korean was willing to pay twice the full price (£650,000), but it’s on offer to us, the public, at a cut price. We can buy it for £362,500. And here’s how; you send a text message and donate a fiver. All we need is 70,000 people to do it and the biggest ever ship in a bottle in the world is ours!

But I’m troubled by something I can’t find an answer too. Who are we buying it from? According to the Greater London Authority website “Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle has been commissioned by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England and The Henry Moore Foundation with sponsorship from Guaranty Trust Bank.”  So some money been’s moved around somewhere in the past, and it seems only right that Yinka (and his troupe of workers) was paid at the time for his work. Wasn’t he? So who owns it now?

the guardian article implies it is the artist we are buying the work off. Shonibare is quoted as saying: “This is a bargain price, a huge discount. I did have interest from a very wealthy South Korean, who would have put it in his garden – but I thought I would wait for a better offer.”

The article goes on to state that the better offer is “the chance of keeping it in the public domain, after the Maritime Museum expressed an interest in acquiring it permanently”.

This is clearly magnanimous of Yinka. He could make twice this amount, but he is prepared to sell it at half price just to keep it in this country. That’s good.

But how about this for an alternative? Take less.

Oh, I know, I’m not understanding something.

This work says many things to many people. I’m not going to get into that, I’m no art critic. But I will pinch this bit from the artfund’s site, which enables us to understand part of the artwork’s appeal:

Its richly patterned textiles – used for the sails – are of course a departure from the original. These were inspired by Indonesian batik, mass-produced by Dutch traders and sold in West Africa. Today these designs are associated with African dress and identity. In such ways, the piece celebrates the cultural richness and ethnic diversity of the United Kingdom, and also initiates conversations about this country’s past as a colonial power.

And that’s one of the things I love about art; it does all that, and yet still qualifies as the world’s biggest ship in a bottle!

Let’s keep it.

But Yinka, take less.

You’re an artist. Not a banker, not a Premiership footballer, not an actor or a chat show host. You’re not a member of the Royal Family.

Take less.

Ok, I’m being unreasonable. I clearly do not know how the art world works. Maybe you weren’t paid first time around. Maybe your team, who built the ship, put it in the bottle… the Italians who made the bottle… the people who came up with the air conditioning to make sure the bottle doesn’t look like my bedroom window on a frosty morning… maybe they are all waiting on payment.

The thing is made, eventually sold, we all get paid? Is that the deal?

If not, take less.

Oh, I know… what am I on about? Why should you? But go on, take less.

Would £50,000 cover things?

If you’re short of money (and God knows, we all are… at my current rate it would take me well over twenty years to earn your asking price – and hopefully, before then, I’d be retired or dead), but, if you are short of money… Well heck! Your an MBE! We (the nation) would take care of you.

Give it to us.

Go on, give it to the Maritime Museum.

It’s going to cost a fair amount in upkeep, so go on, be kind. Give it away.

You’re an artist! It’s your calling to not make money! It’s your calling to survive in a mildewed garret, absinthed out of your mind, serving a greater good. Oh, I’m being romantic now; those were the old days.

But go on, take less.

Doctor Steel

November 15, 2010

A few months back I bumped into some of Doctor Steel’s Toy Soldiers. Look! Here they are! Do they scare you?

They scared me a little; a whole gang of them, invading Trafalgar Square. All dressed in black, looking not unlike a new army of Nazis.

Now, when it comes to being scared I usually do the sensible thing and run away. But when it comes to Nazi-looking folk, if they are seemingly harmless, I can’t help myself but confront them. I need to ask if they are indeed Nazis. And then? Well, I will reason with them and they will change their minds.

So I cornered these two. I asked them, “are you Nazis?” I can’t recall now if they laughed or just smiled. They weren’t Nazis. They are Toy Soldiers. They are the Army of Doctor Steel.

Not much help there. It still all seemed a little mysterious, possibly a wee bit sinister.

So many questions. Who’s Doctor Steel? Who are the Toy Soldiers? And… well, just answer the one question; who the hell is this Doctor Steel?

He’s Dr. Phineas Waldolf Steel and he plans to take over the World. And he is crazy! He says so himself.

He has a manifesto. He plans to turn the World into a Utopian Playland. He’s redefined the word ‘toys’ as anything that makes us happy. He want us all to be happy. To have fun.

It sounds ok. Ish. See what you think.

And the two guys above? They were lovely. Ok, so they dress like Nazis, but what the hell.

You can find out more here. Lots of lovely videos too. It’s all very entertaining. But should we be afraid? You decide.

Me and the Santas

December 13, 2009

Last year I bumped into the mass Santas, by accident, in Leicester Square. You can see me with them here. This year I bumped into the mass Santas, by accident, in Trafalgar Square.

I walked out of Charing Cross station straight into a streaming Strand of Santas. I followed them to the Square, and then I just wandered and mingled and snapped away. Mass Santas are a friendly bunch. They wish you a Happy Christmas and they give you gold coins. But not real gold. Inside is chocolate. Oh, and they like to throw sprouts around. They arrive with sprouts on stalks, pluck them off, and hurl them at each other. Some Santas drink, some smoke. One was smoking a fancy cigarette; perhaps a North Pole special. They dance and kiss and hug, and no one tries to stop them.

Who knows where they come from? Maybe the North Pole. Maybe Facebook.

I stopped by a policeman to ask. He was so young he looked like a little toy figure Santa may bring you to go with your Duplo village. Except he wasn’t that young. He was old enough to know me. Last year I was asked if I was “the man who worked with animals”. This policeman asked me if I used to be on Magpie! Cheeky bastard! How old did he think I was? Sorry… not cheeky bastard. He was very nice. As were all of the three police officers I could see there. They obviously trust the Santas to behave. And, to be the fair, the drunken one who dropped his bottle of beer and smashed it, did do his best to scoot the bits away into a corner with his black-booted foot.

Well done Santas for entertaining yourselves and us.

Plinth pics

July 20, 2009

In town to see Bruno and Moon (there’s a double bill not to be sniffed at) I stopped by the Fourth Plinth a few times. Here’s what I saw.


This robot guy rotated slowly, taking pictures of all around. He was an excellent replicant and thankfully not painted Covent Garden dirty silver.

The next participant wore many T-shirts, each with a different slogan or statement. He took them off one by one and threw them to the crowd. And some of the crowd were happy to wear them.


Later, strolling drunkenly home, I saw a plinther ask his boyfriend Russ to marry him. Russ said yes and the crowd cheered.


Cloud-seeking tourist

May 24, 2009



Castaway 2

March 27, 2009

I had a casting the other day. Better than the one I had a few weeks back, but I still won’t get it. That’s not being defeatist. I did a good job, I’d be good for the ad, but I won’t get it because at some point, someone will go “isn’t he that bloke that used to be on kids tv?” And that’ll be that. For some adverts me being vaguely recognisable to a small proportion of the public may well be a good thing. Better wait for one of those to come along. What a change from the me of twenty odd years ago who would have run a mile from an advert, believing them all to be the works of Satan. However, I still have some principles. I will only perform in adverts for products that are demonstrably bad for people.

When I entered the waiting a room at the casting suite a voice called “Simon”. I looked over and said “Ben!” For it was Ben. I’m terrible at remembering names, and I haven’t seen Ben since we were teenagers at University, but I recognised him straight away. So things perked up from that point. After the casting we went and had a coffee. It was good to talk about old times and old friends. Sad too. Friends come and go; we all go through good times and bad times.

We were up for different parts in this advert. So, in an ideal world, we’ll both be working together again after a quarter of a century gap.

Then I wandered for a bit. When it started to snow… Snow? No one mentioned snow. Then again, I had seen no forecasts. So, when it started to snow I did the sensible thing and popped into Fopp and bought Setting Sons by The Jam for £3 (I have it on vinyl, but that and all the other stuff- turntable, amp- are all in storage).

As I walked home I looked at the clouds. I should have taken some pictures but my arms were too lazy. Here’s a couple of old pictures I came across recently. I had a file called “last pics on the Nikon” and I was intrigued to see what was in there. My camera’s Samsung now, but it seems to have some ghosts caught in it. I can’t remove them and I can’t buy a new camera. So, before I go back to the ghosts, here’s two ghost free Trafalgar Square pictures.


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