The whole nasty, tacky, amateurish bodginess of the South Bank was epitomised for me by the Nelson Mandela bust. A big bronze head about six times scale squatted on a pedestal on the outside walkway visible from the train track. Like much of the haranguing by the liberal elite it was meant as a punishment and a rebuke as much as a tribute to the great man. So they put the poor chap not nobly gazing over the Thames but around the side, looking at the scruffy, blackened and spray painted railway arches so as to inflict him on millions of tired commuters, whom they presumably held responsible for the entire apartheid regime in South Africa. Well, one day a frustrated commuter took a hammer to the thing. It was so monolithic, even a 20oz hammer would have left no more a few slight dings, but to everyone's astonishment it knocked a huge chunk through Nelson's breastbone. Turned out it wasn't made of bronze at all but fibreglass.
Well, this was back in the day when the Standard was a newspaper and had journalists and stories and everything. The patrons said they thought they'd paid for bronze, so extortionately expensive was the thing. No, no, said the artist, I never said bronze. I said bronze finish, see? And if that bloke hadn't put a hammer through it, you'd never have noticed. As it turned out, the fake bronze bust was a perfect embellishment to the fake concert centre and the fake art gallery to which it was attached. It was all just a huge con on the public purse.
Anyway, all that was to point you in the direction of a Speccie piece by Norman Lebrecht, who loathes the place as much as I do. His solution is much kinder by far than mine. I would turn the entire place over to an upscale toilet and street food centre, which sometimes seem to be the only two visitor attractions that London gets right.
What happened to the Mandela bust? Oh it was repaired. A few times. Then someone realised that fibreglass is flammable, and burned the thing to pieces. Eventually, we paid up for a copy in real bronze set out of hammer-reach, thus perpetuating the practice of not only paying over the odds but twice for something of questionable merit.
|The attractive Shell building obscured by a luvvie monolith|