The Twentieth Century Society is calling for a stay of execution for Exeter’s iconic Westgate Mural, while possible conservation options are explored. We have just heard that this fantastic mural on New Bridge Street is about to be painted over due to problems with cracks in the render.
Painted by local artist Andrew Stacey in 1979 to celebrate the Westgate festival, the giant 60 by 40 foot mural has become a much loved welcoming landmark at one of the four historic gates of the old city. It is based on festival events that took place in Exeter that year, including the international ‘Festival of Fools’; it features jugglers, street performers and other local characters depicted in the street and peering out of windows in neighbouring buildings.
The piece also plays skilful games with perspective, leading the viewer up New Bridge Street into Fore Street – and includes distant views of Exeter Cathedral as well as the 1964 Debenhams department store. The mural continues past the base of the New Street Bridge, and cleverly incorporates part of the original old city wall on which it sits, using ‘trompe l’oeil’ techniques.
Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser at the Twentieth Century Society said: “This mural is undoubtedly of historic and artistic interest. We understand there are problems with the render and that the owner has tried hard to find a solution, but it would be short sighted not to fully explore possible conservation options before it is painted over and lost forever.
We are trying to contact the owner to ask for further research to be carried out before a final decision is taken.
Andrew Stacey, a former Exeter College art teacher, has already carried out two restorations of the mural since with was first painted. His second city gate piece, the Southgate mural on Holloway Street, completed in 1985 and restored in 2009, is also a much loved landmark.