After the recent seeming destruction of the iconic Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic arches at Tottenham Court Road station, by Transport for London – an act that Artlyst believed to be one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory – It would now appear that the iconic work was in fact removed to a location that was undisclosed by TFL at the time.
This event went ahead despite public protests and a petition from groups and the 20th Century Society, which attracted nearly 8000 signatures believing that the great work of art was about to be destroyed. TFL had confirmed that three of the four arches at Tottenham Court Road station featuring the murals had been dismantled, but at no point did they reveal that the works had been moved, let alone to where? – and more importantly, as we now know that the Paolozzi work still exists, what will now happen to this important piece of public art?
As following the removal of the mosaics by Paolozzi from Tottenham Court Road earlier this month, it has now been revealed that this important public work, entrusted to TFL, was transported to a storage facility in Norfolk.
In light of these events Artlyst asked if there should a reappraisal of professional attitudes and practices toward the implementation or removal of public art? (read our opinion piece here to see what you think). Artlyst now wonders why there has not been full disclosure regarding the removal of the late Paolozzi’s gift to London?
Now in a fresh turn of events the Twentieth Century Society conservation group has called for a “Domesday Book” survey of post-war public art – but that murals, mosaics and ceramic works will not be a part of a drive to catalogue the nation’s sculptures and public monuments.
Roger Bowdler, the designation director for English Heritage, says the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) already has a “deeply impressive” inventory of public sculpture, which it has amassed in the 14 volumes that have been published since 1991. However, there are many geographical and historical gaps, in this particular inventory – and many important murals are not included.
The project “Your Sculpture” is a joint initiative of the Public Catalogue Fund and the PMSA, and is due to receive £2.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but reliefs, mosaics and murals will also not be included in a new project, which will include art made over the past 1,000 years. It is estimated that around 85,000 objects from collections and 15,000 outdoor sculptures will be digitally catalogued beginning in 2016.
In light of these exclusions, the president of the Twentieth Century Society, Gillian Darley, states that these forms of public art have been identified as particularly at risk. “These works are often attached to buildings and sometimes the buildings are not listable. So what do you do with the ceramic decoration that is of very high quality?” Darley asks.
The senior conservation adviser at the Twentieth Century Society, Henrietta Billings who campaigned to save the Paolozzi mosaics, says there has been a recent change in attitudes towards art that is fixed to buildings. The adviser believes that the turning point came in 2008 when a William Mitchell mural at Islington Green School in north London was listed by English Heritage and saved before the building was demolished.
The Paolozzi mosaics were not listed because of the development at Tottenham Court Road, where a new station is being constructed. It is apparently clear that without proper cataloguing of murals and mosaics, certain important works of public art may be destroyed, or in light of TFL’s non-disclosure of the plight of the Eduardo Paolozzi Mosaic Arches – presumably to sell the work without consultation – works may even be moved and sold by authorities without the knowledge or consent of the general public for which they were created.
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved