Monday, 9 April 2012

The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt

A few weeks ago, en route to an interview, I came across a giant egg sitting on a base outside the National Gallery.  I obviously couldn’t be late for my interview, but it would have killed me to run past without pausing to inspect it. So I took a quick photo of the first egg I saw in the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt before I was entirely aware of it.  Not long afterwards, that egg was sadly stolen. The egg in question was Our Team by Charlie’s Cartoons, covered in athletes and thus very 2012 with a nod to the Olympics.  Later, I noticed a green one nearby with a small clock in it, called Cuckoo, and my interest was piqued.
I remember the magic a few years ago of wandering around London photographing elephants, which is not something I would have expected to say or do.  The elephants in question were decorated by artists for the charity The Elephant Family  (which aims to turn around the fate of the Asian elephants, which face extinction after 90% have disappeared over the past century,  by creating crucial projects in their native countries and by raising awareness).  The Egg Hunt raises money for that charity and Action for Children, which supports around 50k of the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected young people. 

Basically, the Big Egg Hunt, presented by  Fabergé, had 210 differently and creatively decorated egg sculptures that were 2.5 feet high scattered in late February around London in 12 Egg Zones, such as The City, the South Bank and  the Docklands.  People were encouraged to hunt for them and tick them off a list in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people participating in an Egg Hunt.  The project aims to raise over £2 million for the above charities.  

Each egg sculpture had a coded number on its plinth, and egg hunters were encouraged to text that (each text being a £3 donation) to enter a contest to win a golden Fabergé Diamond Jubilee Egg valued at about £100,000.  Also, all eggs are being auctioned off.  Some have already been sold, but most auctions end at 6pm on Easter Monday.  They generally seem to be going for about £1500 each, with some more popular ones, such as Odele Kidd’s gorgeous Polar Bear Ballet, which I sadly never saw in person, going for £20,000.  The bidding for one egg that is yet to be painted—the Chapman Brothers will paint the winning bidder’s portrait as Humpty Dumpty on an egg—is at £25,000.  It’s great news for all the artists, for the people who get these fantastic sculptures, and for the charities. 
I stumbled upon several eggs a few days after seeing my first, when walking through the royal parks, and then made a point of walking around the deserted City on a Saturday to snap several neat eggs there, and was interested to see several other people doing the egg hunt, even in that deserted part of town.  I intended to go out to do other Zones later when I learned that those eggs had been moved to Covent Garden, for an Egg-stravaganza.  All the remaining eggs were lined up in different parts of the Piazza, hung from the ceilings or dotted around the Market Building, or hidden in store windows.  People dressed (sort of) in bunny outfits were collecting donations and selling Big Egg Hunt books for a donation of £2.50, which listed all the eggs and enabled people to tick them off when they found each one, and then get a certificate when they found them all.
Such things are so important—not just for the charitable cause, which is crucial, but for the delight that it brings to so many people. Part of being a Londoner is enjoying the unexpected, coming across surprising sights every day.  Or being able to go out looking for them when you know they are there. And the sheer number of parents with their kids who had clearly made it a day out to mark off all the eggs even when they were all together in Covent Garden was  proof enough of the joy the project brought to so many. 
There were furry ones, beautifully coloured ones, one made of pennies, one that reacted to warmth to retain people’s handprints, ones with animals, ones making a statement, one with Maggie Smith’s Downton Abbey character painted on it, ones with legs, mosaic ones, one that looks like the Gherkin (which wasn’t the one in front of the Gherkin), metal sculpted ones including a bird cage, a Mr Potato Head one, ones you could look into, and ones that deserved to be in the Tate or National Gallery.  There was also a Where’s Wally egg (Where’s Waldo to us Americans) that was moved regularly, so it was harder to spot.

I simply smile when the various eggs come up in the slideshow screensaver on my PC, giving me the chance to inspect and enjoy so many of them more than I had before.  And I’m so pleased that the bidding for them has been so successful. There’s still a tiny bit of time left if anyone wants one of these gorgeous or fascinating big eggs in their home or garden. It beats an old Athena print or a garden gnome!  In any case, I urge you to visit the site to view the many varied, incredible eggs, read a bit about what motivated each artist, and donate to the cause if you can.  You can even buy miniature versions of some of the eggs or other gifts at the Egg Shop in Covent Garden or Selfridges.
Thank you, Big Egg Hunt coordinators, sponsors and artists—plus those in London who allowed it to happen.  This has been wonderful.

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