Home News in Depth

This year Selfridges launched The Festival of the Imagination, hosting an innovative programme of events, the lynchpin of which was a pop-up art exhibition in partnership with Whitworth Art Gallery. The timing was serendipitous, because The Whitworth is currently undergoing a major building development and is therefore closed until Autumn 2014. The pop-up exhibition in Selfridges, Manchester was a pioneering way of exhibiting highlights of the museum’s collection which would have otherwise remained dormant, languishing in storage for the duration. It was also a new vehicle for the Whitworth, an exciting and unexpected context to exhibit the collection, giving accessibility to a new audience, who may not have previously considered going to an art gallery. The pop-up exhibition featured Lucian Freud, Tracey Emin, Paula Rego and most notably Jacob Epstein’s Genesis. The Festival of the Imagination was also multi-disciplinary, incorporating actors, writers, architects, designers and students. In Birmingham artist-in-residence, Beth Derbyshire took over the Selfridges Foodhall for her Imaginarium.

Selfridges is not afraid of plunging headlong into supporting the arts, either mainstream or reactionary as they demonstrated in 2013 with their ICA Off-Site: A Journey through London Subculture: 1980 to Now. With this exciting voyage through the combustive fusion of art, design, fashion music and club scene, Selfridges relished the juxtaposition of their glamorous Oxford Street location with this celebration of the underbelly of 1980s’ London cultural scene. Selfridges had also scooped up the talented sculptor, Joana Vasoncelos, where her Carmen Miranda sculpture of a giant shoe made of tin pans was luring shoppers to their shoe department with its heady mixture of fetish and humour…

David Morris, Head of Collections at The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, talked to PMSA in some detail about the exhibition, explaining how the pop-up had been the idea of Director, Dr. Maria Balshaw. The Jacob Epstein Genesis, the main sculpture in the pop-up, was chosen because it had been the focal point of the foyer of The Whitworth for many years. The sheer scale and drama of the piece, the immediacy of its impact made it an obvious choice for the pop-up in Selfridges. Morris explained that they had commissioned a new plinth for the Epstein which would accentuate its prominent position and protect it from the public. The notion of giving the collection a new context yielded some excellent reviews from the shopping public, with comments such as: ‘We are here to buy make-up but Genesis caught our eye’ and ‘I didn’t expect to see her here’! However, the meeting of art and commerce was not without its critics, with some sniping: ‘I thought that these works would have been better displayed separate from the merchandise.’ And, ‘Genesis is disgusting and inappropriate’, but overall the reception was welcoming and embracing. The pop-up also raised interesting issues of authenticity and reproduction, with some visitors wondering whether Genesis was genuine, because of its obvious value and museum status. The Festival of the Imagination proved a sure-fire hit and will no doubt be replicated, with its winning formula of world-class art and appealing accessibility.

Main imageFestival of the Imagination, Selfridges, Manchester, 2014, (Sculpture, Jacob Epstein, Genesis, 1929-31, marble), (photo: Joe Gardener)

Architect, Erno Goldfinger’s home in Willow Road, was one of the first modernist buildings to be taken into the care of the National Trust, and opened to the public in 1995. Seen by some as a controversial move by the National Trust, it remains one of the very few modernist houses open to the public in the UK. 

The Trust have now gone a step further and asked artist Ryan Gander ‘to do something at Willow Road’ after reading his children’s story, The Boy Who Always Looked Up, 2003, about Goldfinger’s infamous Trellick Tower, in Golborne Road, London W10. Gander had long been intrigued by the work of Erno Goldfinger. ‘Although the tower was interesting because it was a failure, I found Willow Road much more engaging’, he told Alex Coles in an interview published by the National Trust for this collaboration.

Goldfinger’s plans to build the house, with two more joined in a small terrace completed in 1939, were strongly opposed by local residents, including Ian Fleming, who is said to have used the architect’s name for his James Bond villain, Auric Goldfinger. Today the terrace sits quietly on Willow Road overlooking the Heath, set back from the pavement it seems less flamboyant than some if its High Victorian neighbours. Gander took a similarly subtle approach when introducing his own work into Goldfinger’s living space, ‘I’ve responded to [Goldfinger] by making a series of artworks that are positioned in the house as if they’ve always been there.’ 

A pair of muddy trainers are neatly placed at the foot of the stairs, but hang on, did Goldfinger wear Nike and perhaps that mud is actually cast bronze. Part of the fun of this exhibition is in trying to figure out where Ryan Gander’s artworks are. Gander is deliberately encouraging visitors to engage with the bespoke details of Erno Goldfinger’s architecture, to look hard at the objects Goldfinger collected over his lifetime, and to search out the interventions. Some are more obvious, a shiny custom made chess set on Goldfinger’s desk is Gander’s Things just happen to me, 2014, while others require more than a double take, a stack of box files on Goldfinger’s shelves is Gander’s The smell of an archive is an archive, 2013. The artist has indeed taken the keys and while paying homage to Goldfinger, he is also playing hooky with him, and the viewer, to create a richly layered interaction between 20th century modernism, and its mischievous 21st century grandchild.

Scottish Sculptor, Alan Herriot talks to PMSA  about his Black Watch Figure

Over the past fifteen years, I have become better known for my military memorials both in the UK and abroad. This is not something I actively pursued, but rather consider myself fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to create these lasting tributes to the many service men and women who had lost their lives in the service of their country.

There is an area in Flanders which carries the nickname ‘Black Watch Corner’, or Polygon Wood, so called because it was planted in the shape of a polygon. The wood is approximately 1.5 Miles outside the village of Zonnebeke and about 4 miles east of Ypres. It was here that the remnants of the 1st battalion The Black Watch took part in a successful action against 17,500 elite soldiers of the Kaiser’s Prussian Guard. This ended the first battle of Ypres and prevented the German Army breaking through to the coast. Had they done so, the war would almost certainly have been lost.The Black Watch Association (BWA) approached me two years ago with a view to creating a fitting regimental memorial in Flanders, and Black Watch Corner was deemed the ideal location. My original brief was to show two options for the Association to decide on, either a Black Watch Soldier in a contemplative pose or an aggressive pose. It was finally agreed that that the aggressive, dynamic pose best illustrated the fighting spirit of The Black Watch.

The completed statue was cast at Powderhall Bronze Foundry in Leith, Edinburgh. I have a long association with the foundry and they have cast all of my work over the years. A highly skilled and professional team ensure that the finished work is cast to the highest standards and safely sited. The base plinth was provided by John Fyfe Glenrock – Old Meldrum- outside Aberdeen. I visited their yard to choose the stone which was Kemney granite and had them dress it to my specifications. The BWA required two worded panels on either side of the plinth and a third on the front which carried the regimental cap badge. These panels were made of Caithness stone set into the granite creating a good contrast with the light grey of the granite. Statue and plinth were mounted on a raised dais of First World War bunker blocks, there are very few of these blocks left and some last minute bargaining with the Belgians was required to secure them. I visited the memorial on the evening before the official unveiling and was quietly pleased to see how impressive it looked and how well the scale of the statue, at life and one quarter size, works with the chosen site. The memorial stands approximately 5,5mtrs. And can be seen from more than a mile away across the battle field. Credit must be given to the local Zonnebeke Council who provided the site and landscaped the area to a very high standard. It is positioned on a cross roads, with flat fields behind it and Polygon Wood adjacent. When the hedge which borders the pathway leading up to the monument has established itself and the newly planted trees show some greenery, the site will no doubt become one of the most popular in Flanders, a focal point and ‘must see’ for all who make the pilgrimage to the battle fields of Flanders.

Gorilla Spoon Sculpture

A dramatic 12’ high sculpture of a Gorilla, made of 40,000 spoons has been unveiled by Prince Michael of Kent at the British Ironworks Centre, Oswestry. Taking almost five months to complete, the statue was commissioned by the entertainer Uri Geller in October 2013. On 28th May, Geller is planning to erect the Gorilla temporarily in his garden in Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, where he already has a cadillac covered in spoons. The entertainer opens his garden five times a year for charity, explaining: ‘When children see the items I have, they are in awe. I think it helps them to think positively.’ 

Clive Knowles, director of the British Ironworks Centre launched the campaign in October, but by January he realised there was a chronic spoon shortage, with people bringing in one or two spoons when thousands were needed. Geller himself, closely involved in the project, donated a jacket belonging to Michael Jackson to be raffled or given to the person who donated the most spoons. In the campaign, Knowles appealed for different types of spoons, wanting a diversity to enliven the sculpture. However, quantity remained the central motivation behind the campaign as Knowles noted: ‘ the small tongue alone…is made from seventy spoons.’ As the campaign gathered momentum, spoons began arriving from as far afield as America, China, Tahiti and Kenya. Schools all over Shropshire were galvanised into action, with children encouraged to personalise their spoons, which were then visible on the final statue. Some had their own spoons personally engraved. Geller himself donated a spoon which once belonged to Winston Churchill. Rising to the challenge with gusto, the winning school was Woodside Primary School who gathered just under a thousand spoons. Needless to say, they were presented with a giant spoon as a reward!

The Gorilla is the creation of one of British Ironworks Centre resident sculptors, Alfie Bradley, who previously crafted an intricate rhino head in four weeks, which was presented to The Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for the Environment for the DEFRA headquarters (Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Previously a stone-carver, Bradley is now adept at metalwork, a new medium which he takes in his stride. The Gorilla proved an exciting technical challenge for Bradley, who had to meticulously hand- weld each spoon on individually, with four welds per spoon, as each one was a different size and metal. Bradley was delighted with the sheer diversity of spoons, and explained to PMSA: ‘the different metals change the color and feeling of the surface and make it more varied and interesting’. The Gorilla has a hollow mainframe of wire and rods, with an overlay of steel plates onto which the spoons were welded. Perhaps inspired by the movie classic King Kong, Bradley chose the emotive pose of the gorilla with his hand breaking out of the cage. Bradley has infused his Gorilla with a of sense raw power, but also sees his creature as a ‘protector’ of children. Bradley described how local children ‘took the project to heart’ by customising their own spoons for the project. Although Geller is delighted with his ‘one of a kind’ sculpture, the sculptor himself admits to spoon fatigue, and is ‘sick’ of them! 

Through the course of the project, Clive Knowles began to relish the enthusiasm and groundswell of support from the public and is now dedicated to launching similar public-spirited endeavors. His next project is Save a Life, Surrender your Knife campaign, supporting the police knife amnesty, where gang members are encouraged to hand in their knives in order to then make ‘an enormous angel to represent love and hope’. Knowles is determined that amidst the furore and publicity surrounding the Gorilla, his ‘serious aim and message will not be lost, as it is about inspiring children’. Thus ultimately the Gorillawill be displayed where it can directly affect children, ideally Great Ormond Street Hospital or Alder Hey, Liverpool. However, although delighted by his new Gorilla, Uri Geller has admitted that he cannot study the sculpture for any length of time: ‘in case the spoons bend..!’

Meath Monument in Bayswater restored

The Grade II listed Monument to 12th Earl of Meath in Lancaster Gate, London has recently been restored following requests from local residents for it to be cleaned.

The work was undertaken by the stonework restoration specialists PAYE and cost £1,100. Cllr Robert Davis, Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council, himself a sculpture and monument enthusiast said: ‘Restoring statues often requires very precise and intricate work, but it is worth it!’

The Irish Peer, Reginald Brabazon, 12th Earl of Meath KP (1841-1929), was a British politician and philanthropist. He created Empire Day, renamed Commonwealth Day in 1958, which was cleverly scheduled to coincide with Queen Victoria’s birthday. Inscriptions on the memorial refer to this, that on the east side reads: ‘One King, One Empire, Empire Day’, while that on the North side proclaims: ‘To him the British Empire was a goodly heritage to be fashioned unto a city of God!’ The monument has the kneeling figure of a naked boy on the top and a low- relief portrait of the Earl on the South face. The naked boy must commemorate the philanthropist’s work as President of the British College of Physical Education and as founder and first President of the Lads’ Drill Association.

The monument is by the sculptor Hermon Cawthra, who was commissioned to execute several First War Memorials in the interwar years including those at Bootle and Bury in Lancashire and Monifieth, Tayside. Other notable works by Cawthra include sculpture for the Burns Mausoleum at Dumfries and the relief work on Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

Records from 1933-34 about the erection of the Meath memorial, its positioning, dedication and unveiling are held in the National Archives, Kew.


Aurora Corio