The proposed demolition of American artist Mark Dion’s public artwork The Tasting Garden has, for the moment, been averted following a meeting of Lancaster City Council’s cabinet yesterday, 2 September.

While the future remains uncertain for the sculpture in Lancaster’s Storey Gardens, originally commissioned for artstranspennine98 festival, the move seems to at least buy some time for those campaigning to save it.

The new proposal, however, is a little unusual bearing in mind the site-specific nature of the work: the council have pledged to open a dialogue with Dion in order to discuss ‘the feasibility of moving the artwork to Williamson Park or another suitable venue and to explore funding possibilities.’

Suzy Jones, an independent curator and former programme manager at The Storey Gallery, attended the council meeting. Although initially denied the right to contribute to the discussion because she hadn’t registered to do so beforehand, she was eventually allowed to speak in order to answer some of the councillors’ questions about the artwork.

“The cabinet asked what Mark would like to see happen,” says Jones. “I said Mark would like to see The Tasting Garden restored in its entirety. They asked if he had been asked whether it could be moved to Williamson Park. I said he had not.”

Other questions included whether Dion’s piece could be changed or added to and if other temporary artworks could be installed in the garden. “I attempted to explain the significance of context and the impact on the integrity of the artwork, but this was a little lost,” says Jones. “So I likened it to doodling on a Picasso which seemed to be better understood.”

Greater understanding

Dion’s artwork has been closed to the public since 2008 when it was vandalised. It remains unrepaired because, although insured by the council, it was not covered for larceny (theft without force). A series of bronze sculptures of fruit were stolen, but The Storey Gallery maintains that 90% of the work remains intact.

The campaign to save and restore the work has been attracting support from some high profile figures in the arts, including Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and Iwona Blazwick, director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery. A petition launched in August and calling on Lancaster City Council to ‘reject the proposal to remove The Tasting Garden‘ has so far attracted nearly 750 signatures.

While Jones dismisses the council’s new proposal to move the work as “absurd”, she believes that opening a dialogue with Dion could have some positive results. She says: “I hope the council will gain a greater understanding of the work and its significance.”

More on

Mark Dion sculpture in Lancaster faces demolition – Jack Hutchinson reports