'Replace trite and trashy statues with trees'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Leading art figures condemn the profusion of public memorials, claiming the majority are sentimental and badly executed

They were erected as timeless monuments to the great and the good; statues and sculptures paying tribute to lives of achievement and sacrifice. But many of the memorials springing up around Britain are being condemned as trite, "sentimental" and poorly executed.

Tim Knox, director of the prestigious Sir John Soane's Museum in London told The Independent on Sunday this weekend: "There is a multiplication of sentimental figurative work that is just not good enough."

He singled out the monument to the Unknown Construction Worker, on Tower Hill in London: "Tower Hill is where great figures in British history have been executed, and we put up a statue in memory of people who died in industrial accidents.

"The problem is that there is no longer the tuition in art schools, so not many people are confident with the human figure. On the one hand we have highly competent artists who are worth millions and the other group who get wheeled in to do public statues for £100,000."

His thoughts, also outlined in The Art Newspaper, echoed those of Richard Shone, editor of The Burlington Magazine, who criticised "the infestation of public places with statues and memorials – one would be hard pressed to call them sculpture".

He was particularly scornful of the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square –"arms and hands are outstretched as if showing how big the fish was that he caught" – and the memorials to women and animals at war in Whitehall and Park Lane.

There are so many statues in central London that Westminster council has banned more unless they meet strict criteria.

Mr Shone added that it has been too easy to put a statue up – all you need to do is raise the money, find a celebrity endorser and gain planning permission.

"The worst are sentimental and poor in execution," he said. "The animals memorial is a disgraceful sculpture and in the middle of Park Lane, one of the capital's great streets. There should be a different idea about memorials, such as planting trees."

The two sculptures in St Pancras station are also on his list of offenders: The Meeting Place, a 9ft-tall man and woman in an embrace which he described as "dreary and mournful", and the tribute to Sir John Betjeman which "smacks of the toyshop".

But critics and public disagree over The Scallop, a tribute to Benjamin Britten in Alderburgh: the critics approve but it has been repeatedly defaced.

Ian Leith, of the Public Monuments and Sculptures Association, said art is subjective and nobody could rule on taste. "The couple in St Pancras could be considered quite good in 50 years' time. Who are we to say?" he said. The real problem, he added, was that there was no audit of statues, so many are duplicated while others have gone missing – including work by Henry Moore stolen for scrap.

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before