Dad’s Halo Effect: B of the Bang fiasco ‘must not put Manchester off public art’

A giant ‘chess set sculpture for the people of East Manchester’ will not go the way of the disastrous B of the Bang project, the council have promised.

Dad’s Halo Effect, a public sculpture by internationally-renowned contemporary artist Ryan Gander, was unveiled in Beswick on Wednesday.

The art, which represents pieces in a check-mate position, replaces the area’s last public sculpture – Tom Heatherwick’s B of the Bang, which formerly stood just yards away.

Manchester City Council were keen to tackle the issue head on.

A spokesman said: “Why is the council spending money on another piece of public art? Public art offers the advantage of delivering art to a city in a way that can’t be achieved in a gallery.

“The B of the Bang was a magnificent artistic statement. Regrettably, technical issues undermined the vision – but with any ambitious project come inherent risk.

“[That experience] should not inhibit Manchester’s determination for striking, world renowned public art.”

The B of the Bang – a £1.42million structure intended for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, but delivered two years late – was branded a safety hazard after its metal ‘spikes’ broke off from a height.

It was then infamously torn down for scrap metal in 2011.

SCRAPPED SCULPTURE: The B of the Bang was unceremoniously torn down in 2011

The new sculptures – a set of three three-metre high stainless steel chess pieces – will ‘reflect’, in a literal sense, the industrial past of East Manchester and its present status as a sports hub.

The piece sits in the shadow of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and a stone’s throw from the new, heavily-branded SuisseGas bridge.

Speaking to MM, Gander defended claims that there was an increasing corporatisation of the area, specifically on the part of Manchester City: “I used to live nearby 15 years ago and the difference now is incredible.

“I actually think it is great what they have done for the community. Mind you, if your striker is worth £5million it is a drop in the ocean.”

The new piece was funded by ring-fenced money from the European Regional Development Agency and the North West Development Agency and legally could only be used for this purpose.

It is just one part of a regeneration project that has also included the building of a new sixth form academy, leisure centre and shopping complex – a new area branded Beswick Community Hub.

The opening event also involved the screening of a poem which Gander created with poet Mandy Coe and Beswick community members.

A Glimmer of You: A poem by people from East Manchester from Belle Vue Productions on Vimeo.

The video – with a humorous wink to critics – features different community members and their sometimes touching, sometimes amusing interpretations, of what the sculptures ‘mean’.

The poem, entitled “A Glimmer of You”, reads: “It’s a cup of air, a silver sausage, it’s ballerinas balancing on their toes.”

Gander labels Manchester ‘the city that answers back’ – a challenge to anyone who would downplay the local relevance of the piece.

Councillor Rosa Battle, the council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said: “This artwork now belongs to the people of East Manchester and I would urge anyone, regardless of what you think about art, to come and have a look for yourself.”

Main image via Manchester City Council, inset courtesy of George M Groutas, with thanks.

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