The fate of a public sculpture in Lancaster by the American artist Mark Dion will be decided this week at a Lancaster City Council meeting. Dion’s The Tasting Garden was commissioned in 1998 as part of artranspennine98, an exhibition of international contemporary art which saw 50 artists create artworks for sites from Liverpool to Hull.
The sculpture – located in the western section of the Storey Gardens in Lancaster city centre, a large walled garden in two sections adjacent to the Storey Institute building – originally consisted of ‘branches’ leading to a variety of bronze sculptures of different fruits including apples, cherries, plums and pears.
In 2008, the work was vandalised and the sculptures were stolen, presumably for scrap metal. At the time, Dion and Storey were told by the council that its insurance did not cover larceny (theft without force). The work has remained unrepaired since.
Speaking in 2009, Dion said: “My understanding is that the city took out the wrong insurance. The policy only covers against forced entry and as these are outdoor sculptures, it doesn’t seem to apply.”
Now, a report from Lancaster City Council published on 21 August is recommending that The Tasting Garden should be demolished. The report, which considers proposals for the gardens, claims: ‘The removal of the artwork would free up the second garden for wider development. Suggestions [include] a secret garden where people can meet, eat lunch, show temporary artworks, nature areas, etc. This is a sustainable option with no additional cost to the council.’
Inaccuracies and misrepresentations
The city council cabinet will discuss the report at a meeting today, 2 September. Storey Gallery is challenging the findings of the report, claiming it contains “inaccuracies and misrepresentations, particularly regarding the proportion of the artwork remaining, the cost of restoration, and the opinions of the Friends of Storey Gardens.”
The gallery maintains that around 90% of Dion’s sculpture is still intact. This includes trees, plinths, memorial stones and an aboriculturalist’s shed. Although many of the paths are overgrown, these could easily be uncovered.
The main, and costly, element of the work that is missing is the original bronze sculptures. However, Storey have obtained permission from Dion to recreate the fruits in resin, with the total restoration cost amounting to around £20,000.
Storey claim this is a manageable fee and something the council should contribute to. A petition has been set up, calling on the council to reject the proposal to remove the sculpture from the gardens.
In the meantime, volunteer group Friends of the Storey Gardens is continuing its work to help restore the site to its former glory. The group meet on the first Sunday of every month and a volunteer event is taking place on 7 September. The gardens will also be open to the public as part of Heritage Open Days on 13 September.
You can sign the petition urging the council to reject the proposed demolition of Mark Dion’s sculpture here.
More information at www.storeygallery.org.uk