Colossal Temenos Sculpture Unveiled

12 June 2010

Anish Kapoor’s vast new sculpture, Temenos, has been inaugurated in Middlesbrough, England.  At over one hundred meters long it dominates the still bleak post industrial landscape of the city.  Yet opinion is very much divided over this vast series of wires and hoops floating over the dockland area of the city.

A startling arrival indeed.  It is just the first of five works of art to be known as the Tees Valley Giants – although the timetable for the others has become somewhat more flexible since the recession came along and spoiled everybody’s party.  Kapoor’s attempt to change a landscape with art is certainly bold.  Yet there are many who feel it is a waste of money (around US $5 million all told) but others see it as a symbol of hope for an area that bore the brunt of the last recession and was still recovering from that when our latest one came along.

The sculpture has taken several months to erect.  Here we present a series of pictures, by Flickr Users Regeneration&Renewal, Pickersgill Reef and Nekoglyph on its progress to completion. You can also see the whole Regeneration & Renewal Website here.

Without seeming too much of a Gradgrind, the sculpture is all about facts. It is fifty meters high and 110 long and weighs in at a massive 156 tonnes.  The circular ring has a diameter of 32 meters and on its own weights 56 tonnes.  The other, elliptical ring, measure 28 by 16 meters and weighs 24 tonnes.  The rest of the weight is made up of the over 8,000 meters of stainless steel cable and is weighs a massive 20 tonnes.

Public sculpture of a grand scale is going through something of a renaissance in the UK but the main thrust behind the movement seems to be inspirational rather than commemorative.  Temenos is intended to do the former.  Perhaps like any other piece of contentious art it will take time to enter the national psyche and perhaps people will grow to love it.  After all, St Paul’s in London outraged many when it was first built. Dare we embrace Temenos?  Or will the immediacy of the statue belie its popularity for some time?

The word temenos is Greek for a sacred piece of ground.  This could be seen as just a tiny little bit of hubris on Kapoor’s part (can hubris come in small amounts?) but being so close to the city’s much loved transporter Bridge and the ground of Middlesbrough Football Club which attracts worship to say the least, the area is as close to sacred ground that Middlesbrough has.  There have been suggestions made that the soccer club’s players could use the piece of art for goal practice.

As with any other piece of large scale art this one has been given a nickname – The Sock.  From our perspective at Kuriositas it looks something like a theoretical model of a wormhole.  The whole thing took four months to put together, as these pictures show.  Kapoor was aided by his close friend and engineer Cecil Balmond, without whom Temenos would never have left the design stage. There are, perhaps, not many who would volunteer to do the work of the Balfour Beatty engineers, though.

The structure is at the very edge of current technology – there are 64 points of longitude and 49 curves in the structure which slowly but surely altered as Balmond applied tension to the gigantic structure which is longer than a Boeing 747 and taller than Nelson’s Column.  Altogether the adjustments made as Temenos was constructed were akin to tuning a colossal piano.

The structure needs a might set of foundations too.  All told, the foundations reach twenty four meters below the ground while the sculpture itself rises to fifty.  It remains to be seen whether the work will find its way in to the British consciousness and become as much loved as, say, Gormley’s Angel of the North.

We will leave you to make up your own mind about the merits, artistic or otherwise, of Temenos.  Certainly if it raises the profile of Middlesbrough in a positive way and brings people back in to the city then it will have achieved at least some of its ambition.  Whether it will become the Taj Mahal of Middelesborough is another debate entirely.  The jury is still out on that.  Let us know what you think by commenting below.


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