London is a city that seems to have some new attraction every month, usually of the variety that will separate our cash from our wallet pretty quickly. Few can remember, however, how long it was since an attraction like this has captured our imagination and stirred our curiosity.
Entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red’ this dramatic title is fitting for the cascade of red which has spread across the Tower’s iconic moat over the past few months. This installation is very much an evolving project which began on the 5th August and is set to be completed on Remembrance Day the 11th November. By the time the installation is complete there will be 888,246 ceramic poppies in place, one to commemorate each life lost during the Great War.
As part of the centenary celebrations of the start of World War I, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper collaborated to make this compelling landscape installation. Come the 11th November, the Tower will be completely encircled by poppies creating a space to ponder, remember and reflect about the consequences of war.
The installation has brought this area of London to a virtual standstill, with notices even being posted to ask people not to visit in the half term holidays due to the magnitude of the crowds. So, just why has this installation become the latest ‘must see’ space in London? One reason might be that 888,246 is a number few of us can actually comprehend, but to actually see it in the form of these poppies really brings home how many brave men and women lost their lives. At the end of the exhibition, each ceramic poppy is being sold for £25, providing an opportunity to own a piece of commemorative art and raise money for six charities.
There is a late twist in this tale however as Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Major of London, Boris Johnson both joined the public request for the installation to remain open for a further 2 weeks. Although part of me does not want the work to be de- installed as planned, the other part likes the transient quality of the piece. The aura of a Vanitas tableau gives this piece its gravitas and credibility.