One of London’s more famous works of public art can be found on New Bond Street in central London, and shows Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt chatting together on a wooden bench.
It also shows a lot of shine on the bronze as people regularly squeeze between the two men to have their photo taken. It’s been here since 1995, and I am writing about it today instead of ages ago as the other week was the first time I have ever walked past and it didn’t have someone sitting in between the two leaders.
This could be a rant as a photographer, but really, it’s admiration for how popular this piece of public art is.
Called “Allies”, it’s a £30,000 sculpture by the American-British artist, Lawrence Holofcener, was paid for by the Bond Street Association, and unveiled by Princess Margaret on 2nd May 1995, to mark 50 years of peace after WW2 — assuming you ignore all the smaller wars that took place.
Their faces were crafted into permanent smiles as they share a silent joke, both holding something in their hands. Roosevelt’s cigarette holder, and Churchill with his trademark cigar. Unlike lots of post-war statues and memorials which are grand and imposing, this one is more intimate as the two politicians are relaxed and chatty rather than looking stern and sombre.
There’s a small plaque between the two men with the name of the sculpture on it, and there’s a larger plaque in the pavement nearby with the members of the Bond Street Association that funded it.
And of course, if visiting, you should do what thousands upon thousands of people have done before, and snuggle up between the two men for a moment.
The sculpture shows Roosevelt as he would like to have been seen, sitting on a park bench as if he had just wandered over and sat down. In truth, he was paralysed due to polio before the polio vaccine was invented, and while he could walk using leg braces and walking sticks, more often moved around in a wheelchair. Although his disability was well known, there are very few photographs of him in a wheelchair as he refused to be seen in public in one.
The artist later made seven copies of the sculpture, and one of them stood outside the Catto Gallery in Hampstead in 2016 until it was sold to a hotel in the Lake District.