Wind denies town giant heart work on a rope


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The Independent Online

The residents of Folkestone don't know how close they came to having to live in the shadow of a huge balloon shaped like a human heart, looming over the town centre.

The plans, developed by the Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger, left, were intended to celebrate the 17th-century Folkestone heart physician William Harvey. Inhabitants of the Kent town would have woken one day three years ago to find the helium-filled structure filling the sky over the seafront, tethered to the earth with ropes. Alas, the project was delayed and then did not go ahead, because, Wallinger discovered, Folkestone was "too windy", sitting just down the Channel coast from Dover.

The artist, whose plans for a 50m-high stallion in Ebbsfleet were thrown into doubt earlier this year after costs reportedly soared to £12m, has a history of wild, unrealisable works. A new book, Mark Wallinger, published by Thames & Hudson next week, details over a dozen of Wallinger's unbuilt plans for everything from 10 huge white orbs at Stratford's Olympic Park to the world's tallest flagpole, proposed for South Shields but never built.

"Maybe there's a bigger hunger for public art these days," says Wallinger. "There are more competitions than there used to be. Perhaps artists get approached more. Architects are used to entering lots of competitions. I get disappointed but much of the time it's a difficult ask to keep all the parties happy."

The Folkestone work, called The Anatomy of Melancholy, was a proposal for the town's inaugural Triennial. It was due to hang above a statue which depicts Harvey holding out an eviscerated human heart.

Wallinger insists that his Ebbsfleet sculpture will go ahead. "We are hopeful it will happen and for the future," he said. "It was always going to cost a lot of money and we didn't want the money to come from the public purse."

In 2009, Wallinger planned to throw $15,000 (£9,626) in small change into the Roaring Fork River in Aspen, but was stopped for unknown "environmental reasons".