Walking along the South Bank yesterday, I came across railings by the river between Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre with lots of little padlocks attached, onto which people had inscribed messages/words e.g "To my guy, Love you always, Lauren." Some were recent, 2020 dates. Does anyone know how this started?
PS I've seen so many new (to me) and interesting things - and wonderful natural beauty as well. Lockdown and a quieter and emptier London has its upside (but I know not everyone is finding it easy)
Not sure where it started. It is not art. It is vandalism. Basically, stupid couples put these things on bridges all over the world and throw the key into the river. Local authorities then need to remove them. Authorities in Paris, Dublin and elsewhere where this plague of vandalism is causing them a problem have now installed acrylic or glass to stop the vandals from doing this, especially on historic structures where the morons putting them on and the authorities cutting them off causes damage to the paint finish on steel and iron structures causing rust. If enough of them are put on they can also overload fragile, old structures. Moreover, cutting them off is costly.
I think the padlocks on the railings by Tate Modern started as an overflow from the Millennium Bridge - where the custom was underway by the summer of 2010 (presumably learnt from elsewhere in Europe where it started earlier - there are conflicting claims about its origin). On 22 July 2011 photographer Chris Eayres photographed every lock then on the bridge, and published a portfolio of photographs (see https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/2869331-love-locks-updated-paperback-edition?ebook=354198). On one occasion in August 2012 I counted about 210 on the bridge. However, Corporation of London maintenance men have always been pretty active in removing them - and these days you can rarely spot more than two or three. I think the custom may no longer be as popular or widespread as it was in the early 2010s.
Some of the padlocks on the riverside railings by the Tate date back a few years - at least 2017. I noticed that 'Ben and Laurie' have been particularly active - at least three separate locks! Presumably whoever's responsible for the railings isn't as assiduous in removing the locks as the City of London is. I suspect the locks will remain until it's time to paint the railings.
The Serbians claim they thought of it first - in a custom dating back to the First World War on the Most Ljubavi (Love Bridge) in the town of Vrnjačka Banja. Presumably they consider that the Italian novelist Federico Moccia, who described the hero and heroine of his novel Ho voglia di te published in 2006 carrying out the padlock ritual on the Ponte Milvio in Rome, stole the idea from them! It never seems to have happened in Rome before the book came out. But young Italian lovers who read the novel or saw the film obviously thought the idea was a good one, and it seems to have spread from there! (Information courtesy of Wikipedia.)
In Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal, you can attach ribbons to a bridge. It's pretty, lightweight and very easy to cut off. The weight of metal locks was an issue for a bridge in Paris, causing part of it to collapse. I read they removed around 70 tons of locks.