The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Desert Quarter Sculptures, Montague Shopping Centre, Worthing

40 Buildings Saved

32. Desert Quartet Sculptures, Worthing

Status: Listed Grade II*
Architect: Elisabeth Frink, Sculptor
Owners: Avon Group
Location: Liverpool Gardens, Worthing, West Sussex


The Desert Quartet by Dame Elisabeth Frink is composed of four monumental bronze heads overlooking a park, Liverpool Gardens, close to Worthing’s seafront. Commissioned in 1985 and installed in 1989 as part of the Montague Centre shopping precinct, the giant heads are the only set by Elisabeth Frink to remain intact.


The site owners, the Avon Group, wanted to replace the Frink sculptures with a new work of art and put Desert Quartet on the art market for an estimated £2m. The developer Humphrey Avon, hoped to hold a competition to replace the Quartet and a campaign was launched to counter his proposals.


Although Avon claimed ownership of the Quartet, the C20 Society argued that the sculptures were a real asset to Worthing and complemented their setting in a Conservation Area. This view was supported by Lord Palumbo and Sir Christopher Frayling of the Arts Council and Sir Nicholas Serota, then director of the Tate Gallery, and supported by many local conservationists.


In 2007 the Desert Quartet was listed at Grade II* – a strong step for the listings body Historic England as they were less than 30 years old, previously the window for applications. It also prompted a re-consideration of the importance of the UK’s public art.

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