In a major commission for Hull 2017, artist Nayan Kulkarni has transformed the historic heart of Hull city centre with Blade, a massive, monumental artwork that will change the way people see and experience Queen Victoria Square.
Kulkarni has taken a 75–metre rotor blade – that you would normally see at the top of a wind turbine – to create this artwork, spectacularly interrupting this newly renovated public space.
Made by hand at the Siemens factory in Hull, these blades are the largest single-cast handmade objects in the world.
B75 rotor blades, made by hand at the Siemens factory in Hull, are the largest single-cast handmade objects in the world. It is one of the first blades to come out of the factory, made by hand by the men and women of Hull.
Multimedia artist Kulkarni, best known for his work with light, said: “Blade seeks to transform Hull’s streetscape through the imposition of a single wind turbine blade. This readymade artwork, 75 metres long, will divide the square forming a temporary impediment to a free flow. Carefully positioned, it will force us to drift around its arabesque edges, our sight taking the place of the breeze. The twisting wing, although inert and at rest in the street, speaks of movement, but not of freedom.”
Blade bisects the square, from Savile Street to Carr Lane, rising to a height of more than 5.5 metres at its tip, allowing double-decker buses to pass underneath. It offers a striking contrast to the familiar facades of the neo-classical Ferens Art Gallery, the Italianate Maritime Museum and Hull City Hall.
Blade is being installed with the support of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 Major Partners Siemens and Green Port Hull and has been made possible by a range of other organisations. It is first in a series of major art commissions that will be installed in public spaces around Hull as part of Look Up, a year-long programme for Hull 2017 that will see different artists creating temporary artworks designed to make people look at and experience the city in new ways.
Despite its size, what is striking about the sculpture is its elegance.
Martin Green, CEO and director, Hull 2017, said: “Nayan Kulkarni’s Blade is a dramatic, yet graceful addition to Hull’s city centre. Despite its size, what is striking about the sculpture is its elegance. Putting this example of state– of– the–art technology against the historic charms of Queen Victoria Square makes you look at this fine public space differently. It’s a structure we would normally expect out at sea and, in a way, it might remind you of a giant sea creature, which seems appropriate with Hull’s maritime history. It’s a magnificent start to our Look Up programme, which will see artists creating site-specific work throughout 2017 for locations around the city.”
Blade will remain in Queen Victoria Square until 18 March. More installations will be unveiled at locations around the city throughout Hull’s City of Culture year as part of the Look Up programme.
Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier said: “We’re hugely excited to have worked with Nayan Kulkarni and the City of Culture team on this dramatic, unique installation. This collaboration reflects our desire to make a positive impact as a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 Major Partner. Blade brings to life the engineering and manufacturing excellence of which we are so proud, and makes it tangible for the people of Hull and visitors to the city.
“It feels perfect that Blade – one of hundreds of 75– metre blades we will manufacture in Hull every year – will be a prominent feature during the City of Culture Made In Hull season. We hope people enjoy it. When people see our blades close up, they often comment on how beautifully crafted they are. This installation will enable many thousands of people to appreciate that beauty and scale, in the very heart of the city.”
Following Blade, further details about Look Up, the programme of major public art commissions for Hull 2017, will be announced over the next weeks and months. The next installation, a large-scale work by artist Michael Pinsky, is set to appear at the start of February. Other artists include Bob and Roberta Smith; Tania Kovats; Claire Barber; Chris Dobrowolski; Claire Morgan; and Sarah Daniels. Look Up has been developed in partnership with a number of organisations and companies including The Deep, GF Smith, Hull School of Art and Design and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Hull City Council has also commissioned new work in the public realm, including work by two of the Look Up artists Michael Pinsky and Nayan Kulkarni, who is creating The Golden Hour, a series of light installations across the city centre that will appear during 2017.
Leader of Hull City Council, Councillor Stephen Brady said: “As our year as UK City of Culture begins, I am delighted to see the Look Up programme launch and this magnificent artwork become a focal point for the city. It is a fantastic accolade to have the largest handmade object in the world right here in our city centre and it is sure to bring visitors from far and wide. Blade will set off our newly transformed public realm, and symbolises Hull’s cultural and economic regeneration. We are proud to be supporting this.”
Blade has been handcrafted by workers at the Siemens factory at Alexandra Dock, Hull. Its installation on the morning of Sunday 8 January involves the transportation of the 75–metre–long abnormal load, which is 3.5m in diameter at the root and weighs 28 tonnes, into the heart of the city centre and its lifting into position on a specially designed support structure, project managed by Arup. This challenging project has been more than 12 months in planning and is being realised in collaboration with Hull City Council and the support of Hull 2017 Major Partner Green Port Hull.
Arup project director, Richard Bickers said: “Blade is not only a dramatic artistic installation, but in terms of its transportation and exhibition, a significant engineering feat. A major challenge we encountered was manoeuvring the 75–metre-long, 25– tonne structure through Hull’s narrow city centre streets. Over 50 items of street furniture, including traffic lights and lamp posts, had to be temporarily removed so it could be securely and elegantly set in place.”
Chairman of the Green Port Growth Programme, Tim Rix said: “2017 is going to be a fantastic year for our city. Not only will our local economy be boosted by the much-anticipated Siemens’ blade production facility at Green Port Hull, but also by exciting arts events as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Blade seamlessly brings the two together. It will inspire and engage people from Hull and beyond with culture and engineering all in one brilliant installation. Green Port Hull is focused on creating a brighter future for people and businesses in our region, and we are also incredibly proud of our arts scene, which is why we are delighted to be a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 Major Partner.”