Orbit slide follows mayor 'foisting' revenue plan on sculpture
Sir Anish Kapoor has said a slide is being installed around his Orbit sculpture in London because the city's mayor "foisted" the idea of making it a bigger attraction onto him.
Artist Carsten Höller is installing the world's longest and tallest tunnel slide around the Olympic Park work.
Sir Anish said Boris Johnson had insisted the tower "raise revenue".
Mr Johnson said the artistic collaboration was "like Bernini adorning the work of Michelangelo."
Höller has been celebrated for his slide installations at the Hayward Gallery and Tate Modern, but Sir Anish said he had only approached him after Mr Johnson stipulated that the tower needed "to raise revenue".
"The mayor foisted this on the project, and kind of insisted, so there was a moment where I had to make a decision: do I go to battle or is there a more elegant way to do this... to have this very impressive thing that Carsten does, which is in-between public participation and art?
"I thought it was the right thing to do. It's one art work becoming part of another work."
'Theoretically losing money'
The mayor said it was "fantastic that two such extraordinary artists should have collaborated on this project", adding that he hoped it would "rouse thrill seekers and art lovers alike".
It is hoped the revamp will revive interest in the sculpture, which was erected in 2012 and found to be losing £10,000 a week in 2014.
The sculpture cost £19m to build, £3m of which was public funding.
According to the London Legacy Development Company, the Orbit is currently about £10.6m in debt and is projected to incur interest charges totalling £8.6m in the next 10 years.
The company expects £0.5m of this to be paid off by revenue generated by the slide.
It projects that in the next financial year, 239,000 will go on the slide, and that by 2021, a total of 1.2 million people will have used it.
Sir Anish said that while it may "be theoretically losing money, the fact that it has over 200,000 visitors [is] a considerable gain".
"One makes artworks for other reasons than profit. I understand this is run as a so-called attraction [but] I want it to be slightly more highbrow than that. There's a difference between a fairground ride and art."
It is estimated the slide down will take 40 seconds, with sliders twisting and turning 12 times at speeds of up to 15mph, on a mat to protect clothing.
It will officially open to the public on 24 June, with the £5 cost of a ride being in addition to the £12 currently charged to visitors wanting to go to the top of the tower.