Over the past month or so wandering around London has been hard. Whether you’re in St James’ Park, Covent Garden or Canary Wharf trying to get from A to B has been a little slower than usual. The streets have been strewn, littered, but not by some public health disaster – the streets have been strewn with giant eggs.
It’s pretty difficult not to be distracted by one of the 209 metre high eggs. Decorated by a wealth of artists, designers and brands many are visually striking giving the London streetscape, as well as the interiors of numerous famous buildings, a quirky new Spring look.
With each having the identical shape to work with the results are interestingly varied. Mulberry, to type, have created a twist on the classic runny boiled egg complete with soldiers. Going back to school nursery rhyme basics Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have signed their name to a giant Humpty Dumpty whilst Diane von Furstenberg has created an egg emblazoned with her mantra ‘Love is Life’. The Chapman brothers, Maggie Smith, Vivienne Westwood – artistic names from across the globe have all placed their eggy vision on the London streets.
As well as these celebrity eggs are some truly stunning paintings and creations. An intricate egg shaped bird cage, numerous flower emblazoned designs, a letterbox, a globe – the simple egg has been made beautiful. The egg is breaking boundaries with space age futuristic styling from Zaha Hadid whilst Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has made his out of reclaimed material and Jane Morgan’s ‘A Penny for your Thoughts’ aims to encourage debate on global conservation.
This isn’t the first time London has been covered with hundreds of statues – it wasn’t the chicken who came first but cows and elephants. Way back in 2002 the streets were covered in life size cows as part of the global CowParade movement and in 2010 it was the turn of the Elephant Parade. Liverpool has seen penguins and bananas, Hull toads and Zurich saw 630 teddy bears cover the city in Summer 2005.
Each of these mass public art exhibitions has not been without controversy. It’s probably expected that several of the eggs, cows and elephants have gone missing. Currently the only egg missing is decorated with cartoons of Olympic athletes by Charlie Anson which disappeared about a week ago whilst many are in for repair. The content of the decoration has, in the past, faced criticism. CowParade is said to have rejected a cow by David Lynch featuring skin ripped off to reveal the organs underneath whilst those showing adverts have been decapitated in Stockholm by The Militant Graffiti Artists. It’s hard to know what control has been placed on artists but some of the eggs have faced objections – several locations rejected Alton Tower’s egg designed to advertise Colossus for being too scary.
If you’ve read this far you may be wondering – so what’s the point? When I first saw an egg on the streets of the capital I have to say this was my thought. They look fun and brighten up a Spring day, some of them make political points, others advertise and illustrate incredible artistic skill. Hunting for them, the organisers are trying to break the world record for the largest egg hunt, is a fun way to spend a few hours – you can even try to find a Where’s Wally? that moves location daily. But why are they here?
The creation of Action for Children and Elephant Family with support from Fabergé the Big Egg Hunt is aiming to make several millions pounds for charity two. Each individual egg can be bought, just like the cows and elephants, in an online auction. Some have already gone for upwards of £50,000 (the classic Humpty Dumpty sells) and the last Elephant auction raised over £2 million. Many of the eggs will not be hard to sell whether due to their famous name or design but I struggle to see how all of them will – a large egg is not a functional piece of art and the quantity of them will, I worry, make them less unique and less desirable.
The hunt is a fun means of fundraising with a raffle giving one egg hunter a real Fabergé egg but as an artistic experiment it has mixed success. Some of the eggs are abundant with innovation but others seem lacklustre, monotone and are not bursting with possibility. In any exhibition of multiple artists this is expected – everyone has their favourites. The Big Egg Hunt has not created great art – but it has created visual beauty innovation, a bit of fun and a whole load of money for a great cause.
The Big Egg Hunt has given the humble egg even more possibilities. The unassuming egg can now add global fundraiser and artistic icon to its already burgeoning CV.
The Grand Extravaganda – see all the eggs in one place, Covent Garden Piazza 3rd – 9th April.