||[Aug. 31st, 2004|10:06 am]
Trafalgar Square is lot nicer since they pedestrianized the north side. And thanks to Mayor Livingstone’s ban on peanut vendors there are fewer pigeons than there used to be. It’s not a favourite space of mine. None of the architecture is quite grand and/or interesting enough. The dome of the National Gallery is a silly little pepper pot which fails to dominate as it should.|
All the statues are of nineteenth century military heroes- mostly long-forgotten ones. Sic transit. There’s one empty plinth and we’ve got an ongoing national debate about who should be stuck on top of it. I’d vote for leaving it empty. We’ve lost the knack of creating convincing public sculpture. We know too much about human nature to have heroes in the old sense. What we have in their place are celebrities- who are part wet dream, part ducks in a shooting gallery.
We had afternoon tea in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields- the church at the north-east corner of the square. They do a mean gooseberry and rhubarb crumble. And the floor is paved with 18th century gravestones.
You should put Margaret Thatcher up there. Or better yet, start putting fictional characters up. One could argue that the latter isn't as much a break with the past as it first sounds.
But Londoners hate Mrs T.
A statue of her, exhibited in the Guildhall I think, recently had its head knocked off. Any public statue of her would be likely to share its fate.
Yeah, I read that. It's a pity and a waste. Whatever drives people to think that it does any good at all eludes me. For that matter, I'm of the opinion that art (even art that may be propaganda) is something fairly sacred. Perhaps that's my perception from growing up in the Midwest where there is little art of any sort, we'd have killed for that statue in a suitably public venue. It would need a plaque explaining who the person was so people would know, but everyone would agree that it's a lovely statue and we'd be happy to have more of the same.
I'd leave the last plinth empty. It's far more interesting to ask why there is nothing there. Besides, it's been empty long enough that now it's Tradition. :)
Or rather, it could be like Cato the Elder where people constantly ask who has no monument but unlike the much maligned Thatcher marble, why the person has one.
Yesterday in the V & A museum I was looking at 18th and 19th century statues of long-forgotten people. They hoped for immortality but it's the sculptor who's remembered.
Tea in the crypt followed by a candelit concerto in the church by students of the Academy, that's a great London experience. I hope you were able to enjoy a performance, as a setting like that gives classical music an undeniable gravity. Last I was there I heard a string quartet play an amazing evening of Mozart, and it was only 15 quid a ticket to boot!
When I first went to Trafalgar Sq. and learned that St Martin in the Fields is named such because when it was built the surrounding area was a lonely field away from the actual city of the time, reconciling London's long history of growth becomes impossible for me to imagine. How can anyone stand in Trafalgar Sq. and imagine that the city that surrounds it hasn't always been there?
No, we were there mid-afternoon, too early for the music.
It's strange to thing that 18th century London- the London of Dr Johnson- was no bigger than a modern country town.