PUBLISHED: 11:50 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:18 23 August 2010
ONE of the most ambitious and expensive new public art projects could be the latest casualty of the credit crunch. Leaders of the 150ft Ebbsfleet Landmark scheme dubbed the Angel of the South admit they are heading for difficult times as they look for
ONE of the most ambitious and expensive new public art projects could be the latest casualty of the credit crunch.
Leaders of the 150ft Ebbsfleet Landmark scheme dubbed the Angel of the South admit they are heading for "difficult times" as they look for a £1 million shortfall in funding.
It follows two months of rigorous scrutiny into the feasibility and costing of three designs short-listed in October, including Horsa by Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.
Taking the project lead are London and Continental Railways, backed by Eurostar and Land Securities, who have pledged only half of the £2 million estimated to fund a winning design. It was also hinted that Wallinger's thoroughbred white horse model may be too expensive to finance.
On Monday a spokesman for LCR said: "There are important questions that need answers such as can we build the winning design within the budget?
"Can we build a big horse with the money that is available and will it get through planning?
"We need more funding but with the credit crunch arts projects don't have many friends.
"The amount of money needed is dependent on which design is chosen. All three are being picked apart in a rigorous selection procedure.
"Arts budgets are the first things cut - it will be difficult for companies who are laying off employees to spend money on an arts project."
He said it was crucial to get engineering and maintenance considerations right because the landmark is intended to stay not for 50 years but for many more generations to come.
He added: "These are difficult times. We must be sensitive to that but we must also be positive.
"This is a significant development in a key entry point to the Thames Gateway."
An exhibition of the designs at Bluewater saw nearly 1000 visitors a day giving feedback on their preference, which will be considered by the judging panel before a winner is announced in January 2009.
Wallinger's design, with its roots dating to the 6th century Anglo-Saxon leader Horsa, has been at the centre of a campaign by Kent County Council who want it adapted to show the horse rearing up like the Invicta symbol.
Deputy leader of KCC, Alex King, believes a shortfall could put the project on hold given the economic crisis.
He said: "If we were approached we would consider backing it financially.
"But given increased pressure on key services it's very unlikely that a shortfall would be made up with public money. Everybody is affected by the economic situation."
Respected artist and Kent branch president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Graham Clarke, said if the plans are forced on hold residents would benefit.
Mr Clarke said: "It might encourage backers to re-consider the scale of it and come up with designs that reflect more Kentish themes.
"As things stand economically people would be justified in thinking £2 million of private or public money on an art installation was a vast waste."
Also short-listed is Daniel Buren's Signal using a laser pointing skywards surrounded by a pyramid of hollow cubes. With mirrors at its base, visitors get an evolving image of themselves as they draw closer.
Richard Deacon's Nest is a steel lattice of 26 polyhedrons, each offering a different window into a Kent backdrop.
If funding can be found the Ebbsfleet Landmark is earmarked for completion in 2010.
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