Why Chapter Arts Centre is supporting the restoration and relocation of a sculpture by Garth Evans

Posted on: 21 Dec 2018

In 1972 influential British artist Garth Evans created a large-scale sculpture that was placed in The Hayes, Cardiff City Centre for six months as part of the Peter Stuyvesant City Sculpture project which saw 16 works sited at the heart of eight cities across England and Wales.  

The City Sculpture Project marked an ambitious moment in the history of public sculpture in Britain. Large-scale works by living sculptors at the forefront of contemporary debates were placed in busy urban centres. The aspiration was to showcase new sculpture that was disconnected from the more familiar public monuments and memorials. Importantly, it set out to stage dialogues between abstract sculpture and people living and working in urban environments – specifically outside of London. 

Internationally Renowned Artist Garth Evans in Cardiff Garth Evans chose Cardiff as the location for his work as it was the birth place of his grandfather and the city at the heart of his Welsh roots:

“My mother grew up in the small mining village of Pencoed and my grandfather and my mother’s brothers were coal miners in the region. As a child, I spent summers in South Wales and I vividly remember listening to my uncles and other men talk of their lives underground, in the dark – stories of accidents and escapes, of disasters and loss and of the long bitter strikes. I wanted to make something that I felt had a connection to the coal mining and steel making industries of South Wales but was careful never to describe it as a monument or memorial. I wanted to find a very graspable form that would have the presence of something functional, like a tool, a hammer, say.”

The Public’s Voice

Concerned that the increasing commercial demand for his work at the time served only to reinforce the political, social, and economic status quos, Evans hoped to unsettle this dynamic by making a sculpture that would connect with an audience outside of the art world.

The morning after its installation, he anonymously recorded the comments of passers-by, spoke as little as possible himself and did not refer to the object as a ‘sculpture’. The subsequent recordings gave a unique insight in to people’s reactions:

“I wish there were a hundred more like it” Anonymous

“It’ll dawn on me some day. But then, at that point, I’ll have different interpretations, according to my moods, you see, and I’ll work at this – because it’s provocative” 41st Man

“It’s just art, is it?”  Husband

“It’s a work of a man who has put his life into it!” 20th Man

“There’s not much beauty in it. I can’t see no beauty at all in that” 1st Man

At the end of the six-month exhibition period all of the sculptures from the project were relocated elsewhere – some were sold, and others destroyed. Garth’s sculpture, remaining under his ownership, was relocated to Leicestershire where it has been unseen by the public for more than four decades.  

The Restoration

The years have taken their toll on the work and we hope that our campaign will, firstly, mean that we can carry out the specialist restoration that is needed to prevent any further and irreversible damage to this important sculpture. Secondly, we will then be able to return the work to its original location in Cardiff for six months – roughly fifty years after it was first seen in the city – where the artist will again record the reactions and comments of passers-by to gauge how sculpture’s relation with the city and the urban viewer might have changed.

Chapter’s Work with Garth Evans

This project forms an important part of a wider celebration of Garth’s work in Cardiff. Coinciding is a major solo exhibition at Chapter Arts Centre (the artist’s first in Wales since 1976). The exhibition launches in May 2019 and will feature significant works from the 1970s through to the present day.

The project will also feature a theatre production of ‘Cardiff’ an original play adapted from the 1972 recordings by award-winning writer and Professor of Literature Leila Philip. The play is produced by Three A Productions and was staged at the Duplex in New York City in January 2017. A second, revised performance of ‘Cardiff’ with local actors will accompany the solo exhibition and will be performed in Chapter’s Seligman Theatre in September 2019.

Once the six-month project is finished, the sculpture will be gifted to Wales by the artist where we have been able to secure a permanent home that will mean that the work will be visible to the public and appropriately maintained for years to come.

How We Can Help to Make it Happen?

Chapter has been actively seeking funds from the private sector for over ten years to enable many of its most ambitious projects to take place. Individual giving has formed part of this strategy which has aimed at better engaging with our audiences and highlighting the impact that their support – through donations at all levels – can really make.

Chapter has long been championed for its approach to individual philanthropy – first by Welsh Government for our participation in one of the first ever ‘Giving Tuesdays’ and by the Arts Council of Wales who actively encourages us to be innovative and ambitious in our attempts to raise income.

Chapter approached the Art Fund for support for this, our first online Crowdfunding campaign, and we hope that through many people’s desire to be philanthropic, they will realise that their donations, large or small, will make a significant difference.

A better engaged audience means an audience more likely to donate and a report in 2018 entitled ‘The Status of UK Fundraising Benchmark Report’, carried out by Blackbaud and the Institute of Fundraising, shows that fundraising from individuals is the most important source of income for charities with 28% of respondents to a recent survey listing it in first place, followed by fees, earned income, and grants in that order.

We also believe that, by choosing to work with a national institution such as the Art Fund, it will attract in funding to Wales from further afield. From individuals who may not yet be aware of the passion and talent that lies within the creative sector in Wales. It gives fantastic opportunity, not just for Chapter, but the wider sector to benefit and to start accessing audiences and donors from across the UK. The campaign runs until Monday 14th January 2019. All donations can be made at www.artfund.org/save-our-sculpture

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