This morning, The Southbank centre announced its plans for the 2012 Festival of the World, which will take place alongside next year’s London Olympic Games.
Summer 2011 saw the massive arts site taken over with the Festival of Britain – complete with beach huts, an urban seaside, the Vintage Festival and a plethora of art commissions and installations including Susan the urban fox, who has now retied to a new home in the countryside.
The boldly titled Festival of the World is inspired by the work and vision of Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, designed the Olympic logo and is seen by many as the father of the modern Olympic and Paralympic games.
In the then-radical view of de Coubertin, the arts were just as vital as sport for young people to grow up as decent, well rounded, aspirational individuals. The Southbank’s programme aims to highlight this concurrently to the sporting events, with its ambitious arts programme – including next June’s Art as An Agent of Change Symposium.
During the festival, the Hayward Gallery will be transformed into an open access art summer school – Wide Open School – for just under a month as of June.
Artist Bob and Roberta Smith (also known as Patrick Brill) will be decorating the public space, which will play host to classes devised and facilitated by over 100 artists representing 60 nations. The artists involved include the UK’s Sir Anthony Caro, Tracey Emin, Martin Creed and Jeremy Deller; Ernesto Neto from Brazul; Fritz Haeg, USA; Japan’s Shimabuku and Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn.
Bob and Roberta Smith says, ‘My thing about this exhibition is to try and get people excited about the public realm. The ideals of the Olympic movement are to do with publicness [and] interaction. Art and culture should be commenting we do rather than visit.’
It is hoped that Wide Open School will provide a platform for people to engage with artists from around the globe, through the classes, which will take place six days a week. The project will see the participating artists lead seminars, workshops, collaborations, lectures and performances in their native language. An exhibition space will be in place throughout the event, showing the artworks produced by the classes.
Meanwhile, the Royal Festival Hall will host an exhibition of artworks, photographs and archive material relating to Pierre de Coubertin, providing a visual context for what looks set to be a brilliant, if very ambitious, few months for the Southbank.
The Festival of the World runs from 1 June – 9 September 2012 at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1