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IMAX architect renews call for cinema to display public art

The designer of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) IMAX cinema in Waterloo, south London, has attacked the BFI for displaying huge adverts in place of public art.

Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects said the 500-seat cinema, which opened in 1999, was designed with the intention that it would host an annual public art commission, the first of which was a huge Howard Hodgkin mural.

Due to funding issues the art programme failed to materialise and the Hodgkin remained on display until last year when the BFI took the decision to cash in on lucrative advertising deals – including an advert for Kylie Minogue’s new underwear range.

Avery said: ‘I designed the building to have a work of art that could be replaced. It is supposed to be a public building and the gateway to the South Bank.

‘I still try to nip the heels of these people because I don’t like to think that they can get away with it.’

A BFI spokesperson replied: ‘The advertising means that the IMAX breaks even – it brings in a substantial amount of money.

‘I am sympathetic [with Avery] as it is a very sad position we find ourselves in. The alternative is that its closes and reverts back to a concrete jungle. We didn’t just say ‘let’s put Kylie up’ – it is not something we have taken lightly.’

Avery’s comments come three weeks after Ken Livingstone published his Waterloo Opportunity Area Planning Framework – a blueprint to turn Waterloo into 'one of the world's leading cultural destinations’.

The first of the areas earmarked for redevelopment is in and around the IMAX roundabout, and the South Bank Employers Group has now launched a search for concepts for an extensive public realm.

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