Mark Wallinger hopes life-size white horse unveiled on The Mall will 're-kick-start' momentum for its 50m sister

  • @MrNickClark

Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger believes his new life-sized sculpture of a racehorse may “re-kick-start” funding for a 50 metre version in Kent, which is currently stuck in Limbo.

Wallinger unveiled The White Horse yesterday, and it will sit outside the British Council’s headquarters for two years before going on international tour.

The sculpture is smaller versions of his vision for The Ebbsfleet Landmark Project, dubbed the “angel of the south,” a horse as big as the Statue of Liberty. The costs are believed to be between £12m and £15m.

The artist won the pitch in 2008, but as the money dried up from its private backers in the wake of the financial crisis, the project stalled.

“We’re hopeful it will happen at some point,” Wallinger said yesterday. He was “also hopeful” that the smaller version could help attract the funding needed “by making something real and sculpturally satisfying. It is a large prod towards what the larger thing could look like”.

The planning permission for the 50m horse runs out in Ebbsfleet in April. The project is re-applying for permission with the case going before the council at the end of this month.

Wallinger is confident of renewing it; the first time round, the only objection was from a resident who complained the horse was not on its hind legs.

The White Horse, commissioned by the British Council Collection, was scanned from a real horse called Riviera Red and made from marble and resin. Wallinger said: “It’s wonderful to see it realised, it really is,” before adding: “This is a normal sized horse, imagine it enormous.”

The horse cost £50,000 for the purchase and £50,000 for the fabrication. “You can’t buy a racehorse for that,” Graham Sheffield, director of arts for the British Council, said.

Wallinger has a fascination with horses, and in researching the project studied work from the ancient depictions on hillsides, to work by George Stubbs. “There’s still an atavistic love of horses that people in Britain has, and historically they’re important as well.”

Fortunately, Wallinger’s latest creation will not be troubling supermarkets of Britain. When asked about the horsemeat scandal, he replied: “Well, my horse is inedible.”

He also called for a debate about public art. “I don’t think we’ve been as bold as previous generations. There is space and room and appetite for public art. Future generations may thank us for being a bit braver for what we give them.”

The British Council also announced yesterday it was to increase its investment in the arts from £21.5m to £28.5m to demonstrate its belief “that the arts contribute vitally to the development of society”.

The council had built up surpluses through its English teaching and exams work and decided to invest some in the arts.

Mr Sheffield said: “All of us here believe in the fundamental power and influence of the arts,” adding he saw an “increased opportunity.”

The director continued: “The sector is doing heroic work at keeping the show on the road. People are being very imaginative in their deployment of funds, deployment of arts and their work in education and all the other things required from the arts.”

Some organisations are clearly struggling, he said: “But there has been a bold response on the whole.”