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Take the second exit to Narnia…

23 March 2018

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Modern artists have always had a thing for cartography, with notable figures including Alighiero Boetti, Simon Patterson, Keith Coventry and Grayson Perry all translating maps into their own unique artistic vocabularies. Nevertheless, providing doctored directions in the name of art doesn’t always follow the tried-and-tested route.

On the Didcot Road in Oxfordshire, an anonymous, self-styled artist has tampered with local road signs, adding destinations such as ‘Neverland’, ‘Narnia’ and, rather less bucolically, ‘Gotham City’ to the destinations indicated.

Exciting as the prospect of bumping into Aslan or Batman on an A road may be, the authorities haven’t seen the funny side, describing the project as ‘vandalism’. Nevertheless, the still-anonymous perpetrator remains unrepentant. ‘I’m an artist. I’m not a vandal,’ he told BBC Radio Oxford. ‘I never intended to create any form of vandalism, purely a spectacle for people to remember. […] My intention was to create and build on something positive.’

In that, he may have succeeded: a poll by the Oxford Mail has found that 88 per cent of its readers want the fantastical signs to stay in place. The dissenters, it must be said, were less than outraged: ‘Get rid of them. I followed the Narnia sign and ended up in a wardrobe,’ said one. If nothing else, it certainly beats an afternoon in Bicester Village…

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