Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, hero of Waterloo and twice Prime Minister, has sat on his horse outside what is now the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) since 1844. For the first 140 years or so he was unmolested, but sometime around the 1980s the tradition of capping him with a traffic cone emerged. The council and the police don’t like this, but as fast as they take one down, another goes up in its place, costing, allegedly, £10,000 per year to remove.
In 2013, Glasgow City Council considered a £65,000 plan to raise the statue’s plinth in an attempt to deter the ‘coning’ of the Duke. This led to #Conegate: a storm on Twitter and Facebook, an online petition and even a rally to Keep the Cone. The plans were quietly dropped and the cone remains. GoMA (owned by the council which so dislikes it) continues to sell greetings cards of the coned Duke and a new hotel is using his image in its interior decor because it represents the humour of Glasgow. I found the article about this quite hilarious. Apparently the Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in Scotland (me neither) thinks the cone is comparable to “acts of cultural destruction carried out by so-called Islamic State.” Get a grip!
The street artists are getting in on the act too. I came across the mini-Wellington above in Buchanan Street before Christmas. I’m not sure he’d want to ride into battle on that horse, but he looks pretty gallus all the same.
X is a bothersome letter – I bet lots of people have to cheat a bit, and I’m no exception. Come back tomorrow to find out what Glasgow X represents.