This week, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London announced that “the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide” will wrap around Anish Kapoor’s “ArcelorMittal Orbit.” When the sculpture went up in 2009 after winning a design challenge, it proceeded to receive mostly scathing reviews — and a spot on the shortlist of the 2012 Carbuncle Cup, awarded to the ugliest building in the UK completed that year. Today, Kapoor revealed that the slide is actually a work of art, designed by none other than Carsten Höller at Kapoor’s own invitation. What better way to make people find delight in something that resembles “twisted spaghetti,” “horrific squiggles,” and “Meccano on crack” than to wrap it in a recreational ride that is both thrilling and reminiscent of the joys of childhood?
Curiously, the slide’s fun factor overshadowed its status as a sculpture by a major contemporary artist when the Park announced its impending installation next spring, which seems like a pretty huge PR fail. Instead, the 164-foot twisting tunnel was presented as a new accessory to jazz up Kapoor’s tower — which it will circle five times — with no mention of Höller at all.
“What more exciting way to descend the ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’ than on the world’s longest and tallest slide?” the Park’s Director of Visitor Services Peter Tudor said. “This slide will give a different perspective of Britain’s tallest sculpture. We are committed to ensuring our visitors have the best possible day out every time they visit.”
Still, when the news broke, no one seemed to suspect that Höller was behind it, which at this point should really be the default assumption: the German artist has already planted giant slides on a couple of sites, from his 2014 slide tower on the Vitra Campus in his home country to his “Isomeric Slides” in his current exhibition at the Hayward gallery (previously at Tate Modern).
Sorry for the oversight, Carsten! Here’s hoping your sculptural chute will succeed in elevating garbage to grand design.