Page last updated at 05:00 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 06:00 UK

Clouds and crochet for 2012 art

Richard Wilson
Wilson's idea celebrates the north east of England's industrial heritage

'Cloud' sculptures and crochet lions are two of the ideas in the running for an ambitious £5.4m art project for the London 2012 Olympics.

Ideas from 59 artists, including Martin Creed, Richard Wilson, and poet Simon Armitage, have been shortlisted for the Artists Taking the Lead competition.

The 12 winning artists will receive commissions of up to £500,000 to create new works of art across the UK.

The winning ideas will be announced in the autumn.

Artists Taking the Lead is the first major project in the four-year Cultural Olympiad, which aims to showcase British art and culture.

Bell ringing

The 12 final commissions will feature in nine English regions, and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The shortlisted ideas include:

• Shauna Richardson proposes to create a giant glass taxidermy case housing a group of three athletically posed 30ft hand-crocheted lions

• Martin Creed wants Londoners to celebrate opening and closing the London 2012 Olympic Games by ringing a bell - from bicycle bells to church bells - for three minutes

• Richard Wilson's Red Hot consists of a one metre iron cube heated to the cusp of altered states

• A poem inscribed on the rocks on Ilkley Moor, in West Yorkshire, from Simon Armitage

• Kate V. Robertson wants to breathe life into disused industrial chimneys across Scotland using a smoke generator to create "lone clouds".

Shauna Richardson
Artist Shauna Richardson wants to create crocheted lions

Moira Sinclair, executive director of Arts Council England, said the many "exceptional" ideas submitted had meant it had been a "really tough job" for the judging panel.

She said: "I'm wowed by the shortlist we've arrived at - it offers an exciting overview of our nation's creativity, and is bringing great art to some very unexpected places.

"What's clear is that artists really want to engage with the public, whether leading creative events to celebrate London 2012, or debating key issues such as climate change or the decline of the honeybee.

"I hope people will get involved with the projects, and tell us what they think of them."

Arts Council England says it wants artists "to mark a moment in our histories in unexpected ways and places across the country".

The Cultural Olympiad, comprising of 500 non-sport events, was a key factor in London winning the bid to host the Olympics.

Launching the Artists Taking the Lead competition in March, London 2012 organisers called it "the most ambitious and wide-ranging art prize in the UK".

Entrants can devise works of art in any medium, on condition that the art is inspired by the spirit of the Olympics and the part of the UK in which it is located.

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