Still no home for controversial sculpture

Artist unhappy with alternative sites in Dún Laoghaire suggested for 2002 artwork

A controversial sculpture “temporarily” removed from its location in Dublin more than four years ago has still not found a new home.

Michael Warren, the artist who created the Gateway sculpture, was unhappy with a new location suggested on the grounds of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) on Kill Avenue in Dún Laoghaire and there has been no consensus on an alternative site.

The 20-foot sculpture by the Wexford artist was removed from its position near the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire in 2009 and placed in storage. Its removal was triggered by a plan to carry out redevelopment works in the area, known as The Metals. But it had also been the subject of controversy, with calls for its removal by some councillors and locals since it was installed in 2002.

Made from corten steel, which gives a rough orange appearance after slow oxidisation, the sculpture has been described variously as “fantastic”, “beautiful”, “ugly” and “rusty”.

It was commissioned by developer Eddie Sweeny under the Per Cent for Art Scheme, and erected close to the Pavilion retail and theatre complex.

'Waste of the work'

It is currently being stored in a yard behind Cabinteely House, off the N11.

Local councillor Jane Dillon Byrne (Lab) said she believed the IADT would make a wonderful setting for the piece. It was a disaster and “a complete waste of the work” that it continued to lie in storage. She said the sculpture was owned by the council and she did not know why Mr Warren had been involved in discussions about a new site.

“The artist’s objection halted its natural evolution to its new position,” she said. “I really regret that.”

Councillor Richard Humphreys (Lab) said, however, that the sculpture should be returned to a location as close as possible to the original site. There had been a lot of “very ill-informed criticism of the piece”, he said.

“It is a magnificent piece of sculpture and I regretted that they moved it from its original location. I think the failure to recognise its artistic merit is a very poor comment on the critics.”

John Daly of Hillsboro Fine Art, on behalf of Mr Warren, said a number of alternative sites for the sculpture had been suggested including Marlay Park, IADT, and a proposed road island opposite the Dart station. "None of these alternatives matched either the architectural or conceptual justifications of the place for which the work was designed," he said.

Appropriate location

“Tragic as it is to have a very good sculpture lying in dark storage, this is preferable than a compromise arrangement in which the integrity of the work is so greatly diminished, or rendered invalid,” Mr Daly said.

A spokesman for the council said because the nature and use of the sculpture’s original site had significantly altered it was no longer considered an appropriate location for the work.

“It is currently in storage and will remain so until a suitable alternative site is identified,” he said.