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Public Sculpture in Britain ~ A History
Geoff Archer
May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-872914-40-4. £30

The first book to chart the history of Public Sculpture in Britain is to be published in 2013. It is intended for the ‘man or woman in the street’, as well as scholars and artists, and uses British examples to show a number of ideas of just what public sculpture can be.
Public Sculpture in Britain: A History, is educative and at the same time entertaining. It is full of art and ingenuity, yet for many readers its most useful quality might be clarity, even when recalling lost sculptures or untangling the last few decades with hundreds of new arrivals.
True to the subject, the pages echo controversy, iconoclasm and comments by the press. Differences of opinion are endemic with no single argument about style or location, but several, and none can be ignored. But it comes as a surprise to learn that this country has had so many sculptures destroyed – by angry mobs, by fire and even by scorn. As for the Press, though some might recoil, it seems that editors and critics of The Times, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Guardian, et al have worked in the public interest, provoking debate and urging the public to review its (our) sculptures. So quotes and headlines, valid or laughable in hindsight, are included.
The author, Geoff Archer, is a practising artist, art historian and former art teacher who took on the task of assessing the tidal wave of figurative sculptures on 1st World War Memorials in The Glorious Dead (Frontier 2009). His writing is well-organised, presenting public sculpture not by era or location, but by theme and purpose in a logical structure of seven chapters – see Contents (click blue title). Arranged in and around the text, photographs of every sort of sculpture create a stream of visual impressions. We see statues of kings and queens, equestrian generals, inventors and authors. There are sombre war memorials with allegorical figures and later ‘sculpitecture’, and modernist works in new towns, with concrete cones and steel-mesh abstracts. The pictures continue with conceptual and comic sculptures, ‘Fourth plinthers’ and giant or landmark figures. By now we can see how we arrived at this point in the continuing story of public sculpture.

(Click here for full description (CONTENTS).




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