The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

The Story of Wool, Ilkley, Yorkshire, 1968, by William Mitchell. Photo: Historic England
Ventilation Shaft, Pimilco, 1982, by Eduardo Paolozzi. Photo: Historic England
Donkey, Harlow, 1955, by Willi Soukop. Photo: Historic England
Help! By F E McWilliam, Harlow, 1976. Photo: Historic England

Light shines on post-war public sculpture as over 40 works are listed

The Twentieth Century Society welcomes the listing of 41 works of post war public art announced today by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

The listings, based on Historic England’s recommendations, were the result of a nine month project involving consultations with the Twentieth Century Society, Tate and the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.

Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser at the Twentieth Century Society said: “We are delighted with the listings which give these post war sculptures the national recognition and protection they deserve. They are part of a national collection of public art designed for everyone to enjoy, and to enrich our public spaces.

Unfortunately public art from this period is still often overlooked, and can suffer from neglect and theft. We hope these listings will help focus attention on the community value and vulnerability of this period of sculpture.”

Among the designations in London, Eduardo Paolozzi’s cast metal sculpture for a ventilation cover in Pimlico (1982) has been listed at grade II. We are particularly pleased to see this listing as public art by Paolozzi has been lost in the recent past. Parts of the unlisted mosaic scheme designed by the artist for Tottenham Court Road underground station were removed in 2015 as part of upgrade works for the building, and a giant statue outside offices on High Holborn named, “The Artist as Hephaestus” (1987), was removed in 2013 and subsequently sold at auction.

In Ilkley, Yorkshire, William Mitchell’s piece entitled ‘The Story of Wool’ attached to the outside of the International Development Centre has been listed at grade II. Made from glass reinforced plastic, the monumental panels depict a beautifully crafted flock of interlocking sheep. We have successfully supported the listing of several of Mitchell’s works, including a mural at the City of London Academy (1964, designated Grade II in 2008), and the concrete mural and free-standing sculpture at Lee Valley Water Offices, Hertfordshire (1965, designated Grade II in 2012).

Harlow, known as the Sculpture Town, also has a clutch of new listings. It is now home to four newly designated works including a bronze donkey by Willi Soukop in Pittman’s Fields housing scheme (1955), and ‘Help’, by F.E McWilliams which commemorates the role of women in conflict. The Twentieth Century Society is running two tours of Harlow’s public sculpture, one by coach (6 March) and one by bike (17 April). Click here for further details.

The listings come ahead of the forthcoming Historic England exhibition at Somerset House: ‘Out There: Our Post-War Public Art’ (3 February to 10 April 2016).