'The World Turned Upside Down' – London, England - Atlas Obscura

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'The World Turned Upside Down'

Soon after its unveiling, this giant inverted globe sparked controversy and was vandalized. 


Outside the London School of Economics (LSE), you find The World Turned Upside Down, a sculpture by award-winning British artist Mark Wallinger. The artwork features a 13-foot (4-meter) inverted globe resting on its North Pole and displaying Antarctica on the top. All the place names have been rebranded to be read from this new direction. Unlike a flat, rectangular Mercator projection, this globe shows the immensity of the oceans as well as the appropriate scale of Africa and South America in relation to other continents.

Shortly after being unveiled in 2019, the upside-down globe, which is based on a United Nations-endorsed map and therefore marks both Israel and the West Bank, was vandalized. Some students crossed out Israel and wrote “Palestine” and the “Gaza Strip” with marker pens on the £200,000 sculpture. Stickers and post-it notes with similar messages were placed on the artwork as well.

Wallinger’s globe also provoked anger among mainland Chinese students at LSE due to the fact that the island of Taiwan was shown as a sovereign entity, instead of as being a part of China. In addition, the artist had marked Lhasa, Tibet, as a national capital, even though Beijing alone is recognized as having that status. When asked for a comment, Wallinger said he had made “an error.”

As a disclaimer, LSE has installed a plaque below the sculpture saying that “the designated borders, colors, and place names do not imply endorsement by LSE concerning the legal status of any territory or borders.”

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is in a public location behind the Peacock Theatre, amongst the buildings of the LSE and is freely accessible at all times of day. The nearest Underground stations are Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Lines) and Temple (Circle and District Lines).

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