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BARBICAN LIFE


How to transform a Barbican pillar into a work of art - Gillian Laidlaw tells us about a unique installation recently completed in Sir Nicholas Kenyon’s Barbican Centre office.


ne of the first things that often happen when a Barbican resident visits an unfamiliar apartment


A Barbican Ornithology O


View of the artwork installed on the pillar in Sir Nicholas Kenyon’s office


“type” is to ask to be shown around. And in certain corner flats one of the more unusual features is a huge pillar in the living space. The office of Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican Centre, has not been excused from this intrusion. He describes his pillar as “an unavoidable presence in the middle of the office” but he has come up with a novel solution to make it a more attractive companion. He has commissioned Quentin Blake to decorate it. Quentin Blake says he has drawn ever since he could remember. He taught at The Royal College of Art for over 20 years and was head of the Illustration Department. His drawings have appeared in magazines like Punchand Th


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The complete artwork before installation


Spectatorand he has collaborated with a wide variety of writers, most famously Roald Dahl. He has also illustrated classic children’s books and created his own much-loved characters including Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage. In the last few


years he has undertaken larger scale works for public spaces including museums, hospitals, and the Unicorn Theatre for young people. He has also decorated two buses and a deckchair but not, until now, a pillar. When asked what is it about Quentin's work which persuaded Nick to choose him to decorate the pillar he says, “I’ve known and admired Quentin’s wonderfully spontaneous and humane work for a long time. The pillar has been crying


out for some sort of decoration and he seemed the ideal person to approach, with his light touch and infectious enthusiasm for the arts”. When Quentin first saw the pillar he was initially “rather taken aback because it seemed so large – possibly even getting bigger as I looked at it. When I saw it again I was reassured, because it had got smaller, which was part of the exercise.”


Nick and Quentin agreed that the decoration should be fun. Nick says,


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