Wallinger’s white horse rides down the Mall in London
The lifesize representation is a taster for his Ebbsfleet Valley public art commission
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 05 March 2013
The UK artist Mark Wallinger unveiled a sculpture of a white horse in the Mall in London today (5 March). The representation of a thoroughbred racehorse, made of marble and resin, will stand outside the British Council's headquarters for the next two years before "becoming available for international display", says a British Council press statement.
The new work is a taster for Wallinger’s other high-profile equine commission, a 50-metre high white stallion to be built in the Ebbsfleet Valley development in Kent. The Turner Prize-winning artist won a competition in February 2009 to design the landmark structure, to be sited near Ebbsfleet International train station, but the project has stalled.
Costs were originally estimated at £2m but have since risen to £12m. The project backers—Eurostar, London and Continental Railways, and Land Securities—provided seed funding but will not make any further contributions.
“The original patrons of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project Ltd remain supportive of the project and continue dialogue with Mark and his gallery in ways to find the funding for the next stage of design and construction,” says Wallinger’s London-based dealer Anthony Reynolds. “In view of the effect of the recession, securing funds has taken longer than expected,” adds Reynolds who stresses that the £12m amount required will be sought from the private sector rather than the public purse.
Wallinger discussed the Ebbsfleet Commission last year in the UK newspaper The Independent, saying: “Very simply it’s a horse in a field but people who know will recognise that the way he is standing goes back to [George] Stubbs. It’s about the confirmation of the thoroughbred, and it’s a very staged pose for painters.
“But he’s a white horse and has the associations with ancient white horses. He will stand where the North Downs meet the Thames, which is where the cement industry grew up, and where in Saxon mythology Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain with the white horse as their standard.” The existing planning consent for the work expires in April; an application has been made to Gravesham Borough Council to extend the consent for a further three years.
The inauguration of the other white horse on the Mall, meanwhile, marks the launch of the 2013 arts programme by the British Council focusing on its work in the Middle East, Russia and South Africa. The government’s international cultural relations body will also outline its plans for the centenaries of the composer Benjamin Britten and the poet Dylan Thomas. The British Council is also responsible for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which opens in June; the artist Jeremy Deller is representing Britain.
A selection of Wallinger's "Labyrinths" works commissioned by Art on the Underground for the 150th anniversary of the London Tube are due to go on show at Anthony Reynolds Gallery from 13 March.
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