Monday, 30 March 2015


Each work of art lives in a context. When a uniformed doorman welcomes me into a certain Mayfair Art Gallery I'm not surprised  to see a 6-figure price tag on one of its sculptures. When, however, I learn of miniature "Tudor portraits" painted in oil on squashed chewing gum blow dried by torch on a West London pavement, I'm not surprised that these are not for sale, being both "priceless" and "worthless".

This bronze statue is the work of the distinguished British sculptor Philip Jackson. While strolling round London I came across the unveiling ceremony by accident.  The statue is of the man who was not only  the primary leader of India's independence movement but also the architect of a form of civil disobedience (non-violent non-co operation) which would influence events around the world. 
The statue could hardly be in a more prestigious place. It's in Parliament Square, which is encircled by  Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall and the Supreme Court, a Square bristling with statues of the great and the good and the controversial, including Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Lincoln and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.  Mahatma Gandhi has the distinction of being the only person on the Square never to have held public office.

The statue is based on photographs taken when Gandhi was outside the British prime minister's offices in 1931. At that visit he went to see King George V. Arriving bare-chested in his dhoti, and marching ahead with his stick, he was asked if he felt under dressed. He replied 'The King is dressed for both of us'.

It was 16 more turbulent years before India became independent.  At the unveiling  David Cameron  described  Gandhi as “one of the most towering figures” in political history. “By putting Gandhi in this famous square we are giving him an eternal home in our country. This statue celebrates the incredibly special friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest, as well as the universal power of Gandhi’s message.”

To see a range of Philip Jackson's large works: 
To learn about the artist
For comment on political significance:


For a video clip of the ceremony:

What wasn't mentioned was Parliament Square's recent turbulent history. A peace camp  was set up in the square in 2001 to protest (initially) against the British government's involvement in the Middle East but it became a messy and eclectic movement for some years encompassing left-wing causes and anti-globalisation protests world-wide.

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