| Modern * London |
Poor Anteros has been mistaken for his more famous brother, Eros (more commonly known by his Roman name, Cupid), for centuries.
Created as a memorial for the charitable Lord Shaftsbury in 1893, the statue in the middle of Piccadilly Circus was designed as Anteros, the Greek God of philanthropic and mature love - rather than Eros, the hot and heavy type. He was made by Sir Alfred Gilbert, who ended up calling the statue the biggest mistake of his life. Spending way over budget, subject to vicious reviews, and eventually fleeing the country (his wife then had a breakdown and ended up in an insane asylum), Gilbert lamented that he “ruined himself for a sentiment”.
Still, the silvery-aluminium-lining on this depressing story is what the statue represents about the emergence of one of the world’s most sustainable metals.
Aluminium ore was transformed into pure metal in the 19th century, at which point it was often cited as being more valuable than gold or silver. Over the decades the chemistry was played around with, and towards the end of the century it had become useful enough to mould into the Greek God of love: the first large-scale aluminium statue in the world.
This kick-started what people in the Aluminium biz call ‘The Age of Aluminium’. Egotistical, but not wrong. The light-weight metal became crucial in the construction of almost every part of modern life: airplanes, drink cans, packaging, kitchenware, spacecrafts, and automobiles. And being almost entirely recyclable (75% of the aluminium produced in the last 100 years is still in use today) it’s got a bright future ahead of it. We just need to remember to recycle the magic metal, because a 100%-sustainable cola-can decomposing in a landfill for 200 hundred years is no good to anyone.
If Anteros reminds us of anything, let it be of the power of Aluminium.
Piccadilly Circus, London W1J 9HS