Affronted Tusa sweeps away the Baroness's muses

Click to follow
The Independent Online
John Tusa, the head of the Barbican Centre, is to remove his predecessor's garish pride and joy - the nine Muses which sit above the glazed canopy at the Barbican's entrance.

Mr Tusa's office overlooks the Muses' backsides. And he is understood to be so enraged by having to view the much criticised statues every working day that he has ordered their removal.

The 8ft tall statues, modelled in clay, cast in resin and then gilded, were commissioned by Baroness Detta O'Cathain, then chief executive of the Barbican, in 1993 as part of a pounds 9m refurbishment plan. They were meant to symbolise the inspirational qualities of the arts.

They were designed by the late Theo Crosby for the design consultants Pentagram, and sculpted by Bernard Sindall

When Baroness O'Cathain fell out with the City of London Corporation, which owns and finances the Barbican, Mr Tusa, former head of the BBC World Service, was appointed to replace her.

On his appointment he received an open letter from a former artistic director of the centre Humphrey Burton, advising him: " The first thing you should do when you get there is to remove the tatty, gold-plated, big-breasted statues representing the nine Muses which are placed on the canopy outside your window above the entrance. Offer them to the City Rifle Club for Sunday morning target practice."

In fact he needed no such urging. He has long disliked his daily visual inspiration.

When his office was asked about his intentions earlier in the week it was denied that there were any immediate plans to remove the Muses. However, yesterday a Barbican spokeswoman said they would indeed be going.

She said: "The nine muses were a genuine attempt as part of the Pentagram refurbishment project to create a warmer, more inviting entrance to the Centre. However, there is an overwhelming consensus that the Muses have not succeeded in their objective of creating a set of symbols that sum up the spirit of what we and our artistic partners are doing here. We have therefore decided to remove them."

It is understood the muses will be dismantled within the next week, and placed in the City of London Corporation stores as disposable assets. The corporation refused to make any official comment.