How 21 Elephants Came To Central London And Other Art Apparitions

February 6, 2020 | Ollie Williams

Late last year, regulars to Marble Arch in London noticed something odd. A herd of 21 elephants had suddenly appeared in the middle of a road junction.

"We were in a black cab and we were driving past and the taxi driver goes, 'Look at that. It's a mother elephant with her babies,'" says Marc Schattner.

What the cab driver did not know is that Marc Schattner is one half of the Australian artist duo, known as Gillie and Marc, who created the 21 bronze elephants after studying a mother and 20 orphans at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

This is art with a purpose: The year long installation is designed to make passers-by aware of the precarious existence of the world's elephants, says Rob Brandford, executive director of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the U.K. He hopes Gillie and Marc's creations will "bring the plight of elephants into the minds of Londoners and the city’s millions of tourists during the year."

Awareness is one thing, but what the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust really needs is money and to this end sculpture is bought into the 21st century: Each elephant has a Q.R. code which, when scanned, links to a website where you can adopt the animals.

"There's the idea that people need to see something to care about it," says Marc, who, together with Gillie, has spent 30 years creating public sculptures to raise awareness of big issues. They self-fund their installations in the hope of not only promoting certain causes but also raising the profile of other items sold through their gallery.

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