A pleasant 20-minute stroll across the Seine from the CCI, at the Pompidou Centre, Sugar Metropolis, by Northern Irish artists Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels, is haunted by the ghost of another idea so wrong that it’s hard to believe any rational mind could ever have been convinced by it: slavery. Their sweetly glistening, interactive imaginary city, made entirely from sugar, sprawls across a basement space. Get down on its level to be drawn into its world.
Commissions have taken the pair around the globe, from Berlin to Beijing, Los Angeles to London, though perhaps the most surprising one has been the permanent installation of one of their sugar sculptures at 10 Downing Street.
The publication of the University of London’s research on reparations to British slave owners following abolition makes for shocking reading (see the database online at ucl.ac.uk/lbs). Many of the beneficiaries were the owners of sugar plantations, and yes, they included relatives of current British prime minister David Cameron. Reparations amounted to 40 per cent of the treasury’s annual budget at the time. The slaves themselves got nothing. It’s an unsavoury reflection.
Sugar Metropolis is at the Pompidou Centre until November 22nd; centrepompidou.fr.