Incandescent: artist Philip Vaughan’s fury after Hayward Gallery switches off his Neon Tower light sculpture

Gallery criticised over decision not to restore Neon Tower to London skyline

The artist behind one of London’s landmark sculptures has launched a blistering attack on the director of the Hayward Gallery – accusing him of allowing the work to be destroyed.

Philip Vaughan’s Neon Tower, a 45ft (14m) light sculpture that changes colour according to the strength and direction of the wind, was a prominent fixture on the capital’s skyline from 1972 until 2008, when it was taken down from the roof of the South Bank gallery for renovation.

But now Vaughan has accused the gallery’s executives of going back on plans to restore and return the work to its previous perch – and singled out the American director Ralph Rugoff for particular criticism.

Despite the tower being the first light-based public sculpture in London, it was overlooked for a place in the Hayward’s current blockbuster “Light Show” exhibition, which showcases contemporary light sculptures.

“The role of a publicly funded gallery like the Hayward is both to exhibit works for the benefit of today’s public and to preserve artworks for the benefit of future generations,” said Vaughan, who was commissioned to make the sculpture by the Arts Council in 1970.

“This work was deemed of sufficient interest and value that previous administrations of the Hayward Gallery looked after it very well. The recent failure to maintain the work coincided with the arrival of the present director,” he told The Independent.

“I can understand that a particular individual might not like a piece of work, but that work is paid for by the state and clearly has considerable popular support.”

A statement from the Hayward Gallery, which is due to be developed as part of a £120m regeneration scheme, said: “As it is only two weeks since we announced the proposals to transform Festival Wing, which includes the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, the artist may not have realised that the site previously occupied by the Neon Tower will not be available for reinstallation. Launched earlier this month, the proposals, which include a new central foyer and new glass pavilion in front of the gallery, preclude the Neon Tower from being reinstalled where once situated.”

Earlier, the gallery said: “[The work] was commissioned in 1970 as a temporary installation. Deterioration accrued over the following decades and the lighting elements stopped functioning some years ago. Despite remedial work, we were unable to return the work to its former glory and it is now in storage in our archive. A comprehensive feasibility study in 2010 assessed significant costs were required to restore and reinstate the work, and Southbank Centre took the decision not to proceed with fundraising at this point.”

But Vaughan rejects the claim that the sculpture was always intended to be temporary. “In the 42 years that I have been involved in this project, this is the first time that I have ever heard that the tower was supposed to be temporary,” he said.

“This sculpture was not referred to as temporary when it was originally commissioned... The term appears to be a fig leaf to justify the removal of the tower and the current administration of the Hayward Gallery’s reneging on their commitment to restore it.”

The campaign to restore the Neon Tower has the support of artists including Antony Gormley and Ron Arad as well as London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Since its removal, a prominent supporter of the tower, Lady Suzanne Warner, has been seeking private funding to restore it. She said: “Space could be made for the tower within the new plans if the will was there. Judging from the response to the current ‘Light Show’, the cultural benefit to Londoners and visitors of having the tower lit again is likely to be considerable.”

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power