Where are they now? The Tate giants lying unseen and unadmired

Tucked away in a sealed container in Norfolk, one of the most significant sculptures of modern times lies unseen and unadmired.

Anish Kapoor's enigmatic work, the biggest sculpture of its type in the world, was the toast of the town when it filled the vast Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. Thousands filed past to admire the awe-inspiring 550ft long, blood-red Marsyas. Described as a multi-headed lily or trumpet, it was praised for its flamboyant yet mysterious aura.

But like its two predecessors in the Unilever Series it is now consigned to obscurity, potentially too colossal to find a home elsewhere.

When Tate Modern opened to much acclaim in 2000, Sir Nicholas Serota decided that the vast industrial cavern of the former power station's Turbine Hall should be filled with sculptures. Unilever pledged £1.25m to commission one major piece a year for the next five years.

Louise Bourgeois's Maman, a seven-tonne steel spider with white marble eggs, was the first to grace the space. With its three spiral staircase towers entitled I Do, I Undo and I Redo, the work of art was immediately voted "one of the few unarguable successes of the opening display".

When its reign ended, the towers were sent back to the eccentric French artist, a 92-year-old living in New York, to store while the main piece remained on extended loan to the museum. The giant female spider now sits in the museum's storage facility in London.

The following year Double Bind by the late Juan Munoz went on display to critical acclaim. The "astonishing, deceptive, complex sculptural installation" came in two parts. The first depicted two elevators rising and descending through a patterned floor peppered with black holes, some of which were illusions. Below, pools of light fell from the shafts populated by a cast of sculpted figures.

The Marian Goodman Gallery, which looks after Munoz' work in the United States, said talks were underway to find a new home for the piece but it too remains in storage in Europe.

Then, in October last year, the Turner Prize winning artist Anish Kapoor was set the challenge of the Turbine Hall and designed his sculpture named after the Greek satyr Marsyas who, in mythology, was flayed alive by Apollo.

This month, it was replaced by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project - a "sun" hovering in one of 10 theatrical fogs. As the new piece was being fêted, Marsyas was dismantled and packed into a container.

But Nicholas Logsdail, owner of the Lisson Gallery, which deals with Kapoor's work, is hopeful it will be resurrected. The gallery has considered a variety of options including exhibiting the sculpture in Central Park, he said yesterday, and was currently in discussions with two private collectors, one American and one European.

He said, "It has been put into mothballs but we are quite confident something will happen. As an artist becomes more and more significant there is even more call for a major work to be seen. It could even go to a private collector for a few million.

"It is a big commitment and a challenge for a major collector but we have had nibbles."

Yesterday a spokeswoman for Tate Modern said it was not surprising that such celebrated pieces should now be hidden from view.

"It has got to be seen in context. These artists work on an installation basis. When they design the work, they are specifically thinking about the Turbine Hall. It is a dramatic space and a difficult one to fill. They are like architects and never want to transpose that exact installation into another environment. I would actually be more upset if there was only one work permanently in the Turbine Hall. The Tate wants as many artists as possible to try and fill that space and bring the public new and contemporary art so it keeps changing."

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