Olympic Security has forced the ICA (Institute Of Contemporary Arts) and the Mall Gallery to shut their doors for a month, during the busy summer period. They will now close on 23 July and remain shut until 18 August.
The Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad have traditionally run in cooperation with each other, promoting art and sport unilaterally, but LOCOG the 2012 Olympic’s logistical organiser has made clear that security in the Mall must take precedence over the opening and running of these highly respected institutions. Members of the ICA are furious at the closure. The Gallery and its amenities are a magnate for the visual arts community. All events have now been rescheduled, an inconvenience to both the gallery administrators and the public. The current exhibition by the internationally recognised artist Bruce Nauman will now remain shut during the crucial summer tourist season. Many people will be disappointed that Nauman’s seminal installation titled “Days” will not be open during the Olympic period. Gallery Director, Gregor Muir has made every effort to compensate, by staging an Olympic sponsored exhibition, “Art Drive” an unique collection of ‘ART CARS’ which are being shown, for the first time in the UK. The Collection, initiated over 35 years ago, consists of BMW cars transformed into artworks by leading international artists, including Warhol, Koons, Hirst and Calder, using the form of the car as their canvas. This event will take place in Shoreditch, in a NCP carpark and is sponsored by BMW, an official sponsor of the 2012 games.
The Mall Gallery has also found itself unable to carry on with business as usual. Although it has not been officially asked to remain shut for the duration of the games, heightened security in the area will force all pedestrians through airport style security and with signage outside of the gate forbidden, the public will be unaware that the gallery is open. Louis McNaught the gallery’s Director said, “We have decided to close the gallery for the Olympic period. This will amount to a three month disruption for the gallery, including the cancellation of a high profile exhibition by a Royal sculptor, with no chance of compensation from LOCOG”. He added: “It is a shame not to be able to celebrate in the spirit of the Olympics by bringing art and sport together”.
We checked with the National Gallery and they have reassured us that they are outside of the Olympic cordon and therefore mounting a range of activities of Olympic related art events and talks. The same is in effect for the National Portrait Gallery who have mounted a special exhibition of Olympic related portraits. These central London closures are all for the sake of a minor sporting event, Beach Volleyball. I can’t even begin to think of how the rest of London is going to suffer for the duration of these events. Guess the weather is poetic justice for the inconvenience. Maybe there is a God!
Words: Paul Carter Robinson @ ArtLyst 2012