Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Change Here For Monuments

Central London is packed with famous statues and monuments - Eros, Nelson up his column, the Cenotaph, the Monument - but there's a lot more to be discovered than just the postcard-fodder. Here are some of the lesser-known brass and marble gifts from our forebears.

The Tomb of the Unknown Itch (Birdcage Walk): A touching monument to the British lice who gave their lives during the first and second World Wars. Don't stand too close.

King Vlacendeka of Bieyenku (Holland Park Avenue): 11th-century Slavic king known as Hammer of the Prices. Presented by the British Council to the newly-independent Danezkivakian people in 1991 to go outside their embassy; Danezkivakian people later discovered to be a prank by medical students.

Morph Triumphant (St George's Circus): The world's only plasticine statue.

Prince Fenwick, Duke of Teesside, eighth in line for the throne in 1789 (Duncannon Street): Not strictly speaking a statue, as this is actually the remains of Prince Fenwick, deposited where they fell after an ugly disagreement over an unpaid insurance premium.

The Harold Frankner Memorial (Mount Pleasant): A tribute to the brilliant mathematician, economic theorist and social philosopher who was the first and so far only Briton to figure out exactly which combination of electricity, gas and phone suppliers and packages would offer him the best value for money. He died, exhausted, two months after this crowning achievement in 2002.

See How You Like It (Green Park): One for fans of modern art, this is a concrete cast of Rachel Whiteread's innards.

Fanfare for the Fallen (Euston Square): Premature in concept and over-ambitious in design, this still-incomplete megalith comemorates the dead of five World Wars.

Styrene Boxes, Circling in Wind (McDonalds and Burger King branches across the city): Free-floating conceptual installations sited outside the capital's burger joints. A moving commentary on transcience and loss, or something.

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Mmm. It's interesting to note which of these have their origins in fact. I presume the King Vlacendeka reference is a snipe at the statue of St Volodymyr (Vladimir in Russian) on the corner of Holland Park/Holland Park Avenue. Obscure as he may sound, he is one of the founding fathers of the Rus' (predecessor of modern Russia and Ukraine) and credited with the country's conversion to Christianity c. 988 AD. More here if you can be bothered.

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