Elephant Parade London 2010 visitors day

26 June 2010: This afternoon Jess and I went on our final ‘elephant spotting trip’: the Elephant Parade’s viewing days are almost at an end, when all 250+ members of the happy herd were gathered together for the public to see before the auction takes place on 3rd July. The herd had been divided into two, the majority on show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea were the “outdoor elephants” (whose decorative finishes were weatherproof) while the Westfield mall hosted the (I think 18) “indoor elephants”, whose finishes were less likely to withstand the vagaries of the British summertime climate.

I came away feeling exhausted and exhilarated, and more than a little sad that these beautiful works of art are no longer to be found in all sorts of unexpected corners of London.

Seeing the Chelsea herd was a particularly memorable experience, over 230 beautiful artistic works of colour and creativity, whimsy and social conscience in one place is something I don’t think I’ll forget for a very long time.

Phoolan and Helen, Royal Hospital Chelsea, 26 June 2010

Here’s a selection of the photos I took on Saturday – I didn’t take pictures of the entire herd, I know I’ve become a little bit obsessed with them in the couple of months since finding out about them – but there are limits! There are close-ups and details as well as pictures of whole ellies, ellies with their neighbours – and people everywhere! What I’m hoping to achieve – as well as a keepsake for me – is to give a taste of the atmosphere. Perhaps more so at Chelsea (where the ellies were the reason for people to be there) than at Westfield (where shopping was the main attraction), it was impossible not to feel uplifted by the presence of so many other like-minded people – and, of course, the presence of so many ellies!

Outdoor elephants at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea:

(Artist: Thammakit Thamboon; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Rosie Brooks; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Travels On My Elephant
(Artist: Elephant Family; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

The text is compiled from Mark Shand’s Travels on my Elephant (and also appears on 112 Tara, whose artist was Mark Shand himself):

Then I saw her. My mouth went dry. I felt giddy, breathless. In that moment the ancient wall crumbled and I walked through. With one hind leg crossed over the other, she was leaning nonchalantly against a tree, the charms of her perfectly rounded posterior in full view, like a prostitute on a street corner. I knew then that I had to have her. Suddenly nothing else mattered and I realized with some surprise that I had fallen in love with a female Asian elephant.


(Artist: Ruth Green; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Ellen Anderson; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Sans Merci
(Artist: Cynthia Bernheim; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Elephant Ladyland
(Artist: Giacomo Bretzel; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Gaia Elephant
(Artists: C. Macleod, K. Darke & C. Jackson; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Ittikorn Chaingam; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Jess with Greetings From The Jungle
(Artist: Gemma Cumming; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

The last time I saw Greetings From The Jungle (above) was near Paddington on 22 May. I’ve reposted these pics because she illustrates how many of the ellies often look very different on each side. Also, she is very pretty :)

Edited to add: The artist Gemma Cumming’s blog has some pictures of the work in progress – link here

(Artist: Luca Boonkerd Kaewdee; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Union Jack
(Artist: Thammakit Thamboon; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Elfreda receiving a little TLC from one of the Elephant Parade volunteers
(Artist: Jeff Hoare; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

The Empire is Not Striking Back
(Artist: Chintan Upadhyay; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Michael Howells; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Helen with Zabriskie
(Artist: Storm Thorgerson; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

The mirrors fitted to Zabriskie offered a stark reminder to me that the survival of elephants owes as much to humans as does their status as an endangered species.

(Artists: Carrie Reichard & Nick Reynolds; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

One ellie in particular that I found both hard-hitting and haunting, named Phoolan, had been treated by the artists Carrie Reichardt and Nick Reynolds to highlight the plight of the Asian elephant by showing how it is persecuted for its ivory, blown up by landmines and exploited by humans, to the point where this beautiful creature is now an endangered species. There are two short but fascinating YouTube vids about the making of Phoolan here and here.

I took a few closeups of Phoolan; the various parts of the exposed skeleton were all engraved – the skull read “IVORY”, the leg “LANDMINES”, the ribs “CAPTIVITY”, “DEFORESTATION” and “MAHOUT” (the Hindi word for a person who drives an elephant [Via Wikipedia]). I found it hard not to be affected by this thought and attention to detail, especially when contrasted with the lavish headdresses and other decorations that people make for elephants. And again, a good example of how many of the Elephant Parade’s ellies looked so different on each side.




Headdress detail

Eye detail

(Artists: Carrie Reichard & Nick Reynolds; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Wooly Mammoth
(Artist: Laura Ford; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Via the Giving Lots website I found this Artist’s Inspiration statement:

I wanted to turn the Elephant into a wooly Mammoth, an animal already extinct and to carve its tusks to remind us of our role in the Elephants diminishing numbers.


(Artist: Manish Arora; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

A Penny For Your Thoughts
(Artist: Jane Morgan; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Jeff Rowland; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Lucy Fergus; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Here’s the Artist’s Inspiration statement from the Giving Lots website. I’ve included it as it gives an insight into the creative thinking that went into the decoration of some of the ellies.

Mason the elephant celebrates the concept of re-use using natural rubber off-cuts from the iconic and quintessentially British east London hairbrush manufacturer, Mason Pearson.

And, from Wikipedia, why it’s entirely appropriate to use rubber as a decorative material for a model of an Asian Elephant:

In 1876, Henry Wickham gathered thousands of para rubber tree seeds from Brazil, and these were germinated in Kew Gardens, England. The seedlings were then sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Indonesia, Singapore and British Malaya. Malaya (now Malaysia) was later to become the biggest producer of rubber. […]

In India, commercial cultivation of natural rubber was introduced by the British planters, although the experimental efforts to grow rubber on a commercial scale in India were initiated as early as 1873 at the Botanical Gardens, Calcutta. The first commercial Hevea plantations in India were established at Thattekadu in Kerala in 1902. In the 19th and early 20th century, it was often called “India rubber.” Some rubber plantations were also started by the British in Pakistan.

Mason and Strawberry
(Artists: Lucy Fergus [Mason] and Thanom Kongchan [Strawberry]; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Jess and Taxi Elephant
(Artist: Benjamin Shine; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Taxi Elephant is another example of the creative thought processes of the artist: the TAXI sign and the headlight eyes were illuminated by energy gathered from the solar panels visible on the front left-hand corner of the plinth.

(Artist: Alan O’Connor; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

The City in the Elephant
(Artist: BFLS Architects; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

BFLS Architects’ The City in the Elephant offered an interesting visual commentary on how elephants have been affected by the encroachment of the built environment on their natural habitat: the inside of the ellie contained miniature models of their urban development projects with tiny ellies scattered around them. The panorama was viewed through clear perspex domes covering a number of holes in the body of the ellie – a reminder of how elephants are shot by those who would profit from their existence.

Painted blood red, the elephant has bullet holes that reveal a mini cityscape within, populated by 18 schemes representing the 18 months gestation required for a baby elephant. No longer terrorised, 50 small elephants rampage over the imaginary cityscape…[Via BFLS Architects website]

(Artist: Andre Ritins; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Kids Co Elephant
(Artist: Lissa Christie & Katherine Woolley, De Beauvoir Primary School, Hackney; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

Dedicated To The Wonderful Chelsea Pensioners
(Artist: Mark Shand; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

(Artist: Mark Shand; Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea)

And that was it for Chelsea: one last farewell glance at the largest and most improbable elephant herd I shall ever see – and then on to Westfield…

Indoor elephants at Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush:

(Artists: M McCann, J Scott & N Colyer; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

It’s hard to make out in the brightness of a sunny day, but Luna is covered with hundreds of tiny fibre-optic lights. I imagine the effect in a darkened space would be quite spectacular.

(Artist: Matthew Williamson; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

The Human Disease
(Artist: Nathan McKenna; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Artist’s Inspiration: Crowds of people both fascinate and depress me. We’re unable to really grasp the insignificance of our personal sense of “I” whilst simultaneously unaware of the massive effect we have on our planet and our fellow Earthlings, the animals. Understanding that we are an organism is an important realization in the consciousness revolution. [Via Giving Lots]

Spooning Sunday
(Artists: Claire Snell & Tory Bauer; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Heaven’s Haathi
(Artist: Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Heaven’s Haathi – headdress detail

Jess and Heaven’s Haathi
(Artist: Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

(Artist: Ellen Stewart; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Saffron – trunk detail

Artist’s Inspiration: “A western world stigma attached to elephants is that they are scared of mice. Although probably inaccurate, this was the inspiration for my design and mouse’s love of cheese contributed to the elephant’s holey form.” [Via Giving Lots]

Monopoly Community Chest
(Artist: Hasbro & Invited Artists; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Mammoth Metaphor
(Artist: Peter Beard; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Mammoth Metaphor – detail

love ellie
(Artist: Andrew Logan; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

(Artist: Sandra Shashou; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Eli – detail

The Singing Butler Rides Again
(Artist: Jack Vettriano; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

(Artist: Marc Quinn; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

Pearly Prince
(Artist: SHO Fine Jewellery; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

(Artists: Johnny Rocket & Sunny Warrington; Location: Westfield Shopping Centre)

There were two herds of mini ellies at Westfield, too:

A high-level viewing platform would have been a wonderful thing to have had at Chelsea; this shot from the atrium at Westfield gives an idea of the relative sizes of the ellies and how people interact with them:

I really miss those ellies…


Links to external sites:


Related pages on this blog:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: