If you’ve been dashing about central London this week you might have spotted a bright burst of yellow sailing from the flag pole above Somerset House. Yes, it’s a flag emblazoned with a giant smiley face and no, it’s not a celebration of the smartphone emoji.
It’s an artistic installation by the Turner Prize-winning Jeremy Deller who was commissioned to design a flag to launch a year of positive arts programming at Somerset House. ‘Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility’ will comprise four seasons of events, exhibitions and new commissions to mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ in 1516.
Deller’s flag was raised on Monday (25 January) before a gathering of over 500 residents of Somerset House to mark the beginning of the ‘Utopia 2016’ program. The ‘Smiley’ emblem was devised by Deller in collaboration with Fraser Muggeridge Studio. According to the director of the Somerset House Trust, Jonathan Reekie, Deller and Muggeridge “felt it was a symbol of positive thinking and their version of what a flag that’s celebrating Utopia might look like.”
Reekie told artnet News that the ‘Utopia 2016’ program was a response to the negativity of world politics which has seeped into the arts sector and resulted in a proliferation of dystopian-themed works:
“We are constantly bombarded with news of all the terrible things that are happening in the world…So to actually have a moment to say: ‘Let’s not think about the future as a dystopia’ – it’s very rare and very exciting,” Reekie told The Guardian.
‘Utopia 2016’ will be the largest ever celebration of More’s book and will showcase work from the worlds of fashion, art, design and literature. You can purchase a special edition of More’s ‘Utopia’ transliterated into his imagined utopian language and published by Deller and Muggeridge from Somerset House and the Courtauld Gallery.