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London Olympic Games’ Public Art Program


The best way to enjoy an unforgettable view of London is by visiting the observation deck of ArcelorMittal Orbit in the former Olympic Park. ArcelorMittal Orbit is a unique synthesis of art, architecture, and engineering. The construction was designed by Kapoor and Balmond and is an iconic image of London’s sightseeing. The monument is a web of red loops of steel pipes. This paper is an overview of ArcelorMittal Orbit and other projects that were held as part of the huge public art program associated with the Olympic Games in London, 2012.

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ArcelorMittal Orbit

Olympic Games are always a landmark event of global significance. Therefore, public art devoted to such events possesses certain social and political value. According to Marini (2013, p. 588), the principal aim of the ArcelorMittal Orbit was “to materialize a spirit of national unity during the Olympics”. However, monument’s design and the cost of the visit caused some ambivalence in the society dividing citizens on those who could afford it and those who had to admire it on the ground. Moreover, the fact that ArcelorMittal presented this piece of art as its public image, in other words, using it for business purposes, makes one wonder the very message of the monument. Nevertheless, taking a trip up to ArcelorMittal Orbit, Jones points out its “very well design and fantastic view” (London 2012 Olympics: first view from the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower 2012).

Impact of Public Art

It is also very important to point out the influence of public art on national wellbeing. In this regard, Smedley discusses the impact of public art on society. Speaking of Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North and other pieces of art, he states that art is subjective (Smedley 2013). Nevertheless, public art allows receiving aesthetic pleasure along with cultural wellbeing. One of the obstacles of modern art is the shortage of funding that leads to the perverse purposes of economic benefits to some extent.

In order to achieve objectivity, it seems appropriate to overview other projects connected with Olympic Art. Thatcher (2012) claims that cultural Olympiad began its work since 2008 with the construction of new projects of art pieces. For example, she notes Jeremy Deller’s bouncy-castle version of Stonehenge, Columbia Road, Olympic Park, and plenty of others that promoted cultural fulfilment of the event. Besides, Thatcher compares the London Olympic Games with those of Beijing and Sydney examining their Olympic cultural heritage as well. Precisely speaking, she argues that public art was not incorporated in the Sydney Olympic program.

Berry (2015) reveals some interesting political ideas about the role of art nowadays. The crisis of neoliberal urbanism caused so-called biopolitical ‘milieu’ when social, economic, and political values of human life are extremely increased. In this respect, it tends to fix the everyday life of people making art autonomous. Berry (2015, p. 21) criticizes ArcelorMittal Orbit as it “lacks any processional approach due to its surround-wrap of refreshment and ticket kiosks and is prohibitively expensive to visit”. Thus, she examines the connection between public art and urbanization issues.


In conclusion, it should be stressed that in spite of the fact that ArcelorMittal Orbit seems ambivalent, it exudes courage, beauty, and splendour of steel capacity. Along with other Olympic public art projects, it contributes to the cultural background and possesses social and political values.


Berry, J 2015, ‘Everyone is not an Artist: Autonomous Art Meets the Neoliberal City’, New Formations, vol. 84-85, no. 2, pp. 20-39.

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London 2012 Olympics: first view from the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower 2012, Web.

Marini, H 2013, ‘The ArcelorMittal Orbit’s Ambivalent Effect and the London Olympics: Art, Regeneration, Business and Sustainability’, Contemporary Theatre Review, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 587-592.

Smedley, T 2013, ‘Banksy, Gormley or Hirst: is public art good for the nation’s wellbeing?’, The Guardian, Web.

Thatcher, J 2012, ‘Cultural Olympiad’, Art Monthly, vol. 359, no. 1, pp. 1-8.

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