The Cultural Olympiad grows every day. The latest announcement sees Frieze, usually associated with art fairs, taking itself beyond the boundaries of its annual white tents into the streets, parks and indeed pools of east London. Their four ambitious art projects – Frieze Projects East – are commissioned under the wing of LOCOG (the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) through Create, a new agency set up to deliver arts projects for London 2012 but which – under its new chair John Studzinski – will continue its work well beyond the Olympic year.
Six east London boroughs are hosting the Games, and they are places with a curious relationship to the arts. Low property prices have meant that large numbers of artists and creative businesses have found studio space in the area and made it their home; yet local residents generally have a low level of engagement with arts and culture.
Frieze Projects East is one of several initiatives aiming to change that. In Tower Hamlets, for instance, the splendid 1920s Art Deco interior of the semi-derelict Poplar Baths will be re-opened to the public for the first time since the 1980s. Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne’s inflatable sculptures will nestle at the bottom of the empty swimming pool or be helium-lifted to the towering roof.
Indian artist Sarnath Banerjee has designed a project that will run across billboards and other public spaces in the host boroughs, some of the wry narratives focusing on his own sporting failures, while Can Altay’s creation is a mysterious everyday object to be installed in diverse public and private buildings. The Greenwich-based scheme by Gary Webb has the longest life-expectancy: an “interactive public sculpture” that doubles as a playground.
Art as event, art as permanent installation, art as social intervention: Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory tells me she has still more projects in the pipeline before their July opening.