Olympic artist Sir Anish Kapoor says ‘phooey’ to Boris Johnson’s 2012 claim

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Sir Anish Kapoor (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Olympic sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor has dismissed Boris Johnson’s accomplishments at London 2012.

The aspiring prime minister and former London Mayor has cited his experience at the event as one of the reasons why he would make a successful leader.

But the British artist, 65, whose Olympic Park sculpture is a famous landmark, rejected the claim.

A general view of the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, designed by Sir Anish Kapoor
The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, designed by Sir Anish Kapoor (Rebecca Naden/PA)

It’s “phooey Boris,” he told the Press Association.

Asked whether Mr Johnson had over-egged his own accomplishments, Sir Anish replied: “Without a doubt, as he always does.”

And the artist, whose ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture features the world’s longest tunnel slide, said: “The Olympics, of course, were a wonderful national celebration.

“Boris – why don’t you go up the slide and come back down? You’ll still be in Europe!”

Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London
Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

As London Mayor, Mr Johnson has claimed credit for “the successful delivery of the greatest Olympic and Paralympic Games ever, on time and on budget”.

Sir Anish’s looping structure is the UK’s tallest sculpture and became a symbol of London 2012.

The Turner Prize-winner is also famous for his giant red trumpet sculpture which drew crowds to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

On Thursday, he was back at the art gallery, which is marking World Refugee Day by highlighting the work of artists who fled conflict or persecution.

Sir Anish Kapoor marking World Refugee Day with the International Rescue Committee, with an open letter thanking refugees for their contributions to society
Sir Anish marks World Refugee Day alongside the International Rescue Committee, with an open letter thanking refugees for their contributions to society (International Rescue Committee)

All four Tate galleries across the UK are putting a spotlight on the work by artists, such as Piet Mondrian, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and Max Ernst, who were forced to flee their homes.

Sir Anish said: “There are 70 million refugees in the world today. That’s not some mean number. It’s astonishing…

“It says something about our ability to welcome the outsider, which we are mean-spirited about – at least, our governments are.

Sir Anish Kapoor, David Miliband and Maria Balshaw at Tate Modern to mark World Refugee Day with the International Rescue Committee
Sir Anish, David Miliband and Maria Balshaw at Tate Modern to mark World Refugee Day with the International Rescue Committee (International Rescue Committee)

“It refuses to acknowledge that refugee communities come with huge creativity, with a huge will to succeed.

“To lose your home has got to be one of the most terrifying things there can be.”

And he said: “There are millions of people, young children, old people moving around the world or living in camps. What a tragedy for us to not recognise this is our human family.

“It is not good enough to say this is not our problem. If there is something to say to our politicians, it is to emphasise that this is our problem, too.”

The International Rescue Committee is also supporting the project.

Its president David Miliband, a former Labour leadership contender, said: “We are living in an age when refugees have been dehumanised.

“It’s been turned into a toxic element of politics rather than a sense of bipartisan support for some of the most vulnerable people in the world, who are the victims of people’s wars.

“It’s one thing for soldiers to be fighting in battle. It’s another thing for civilians to be caught up and not properly supported.”

Tate director Maria Balshaw said that “many of the world’s great artists have been refugees, and without them our gallery walls would lack some of the most profound artworks ever made”.

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