Prince Philip statue branded ‘worst artwork ever seen’ to be torn down by Cambridge Council

The four-meter faceless statue modelled on Prince Philip will be removed after years of backlash

Lydia Patrick
Wednesday 27 March 2024 16:32 GMT
Related video: King Charles unveils new statues of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

A much-maligned statue of Prince Philip, branded ‘possibly the poorest quality ever seen’, is to be torn down ten years after it was refused planning permission.

The abstract sculpture stands outside a Cambridge office block in honour of the late royal, who spent 35 years as a chancellor at the university.

Since its erection in 2014, the bronze four-metre faceless figure dressed in academic robes called the Don has long been a bone of contention in the art world and local community alike.

The ‘offensive’ oeuvre came to fruition despite the denial of planning permission from Cambridge Council in 2014.

A plaque under the sculpture reads: ‘HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Chancellor University of Cambridge 1977-2011.’

‘The Don’ will finally be removed after years of controversy (Keith Heppell/Cambridge Independent/ Bav Media)

When the statue was unveiled, it caused such an uproar that no artist wanted to claim the piece as their own.

The Unex Group commissioned the £150,000 piece, and Uruguayan sculptor, Pablo Atchugarry, was believed to be the artist behind the controversy. However, he hit back at claims labelling any suggestion it was his work “an abuse”, the Guardian reported.

Cambridge City Council has issued an enforcement notice to Unex Group demanding the statue to be removed from  Charter House office block by August.

Public art officer for the council, Nadine Black, said it was “possibly the poorest quality work that has ever been submitted to the council” and another critic dubbed it “detritus masquerading as public art”.

Britain's Prince Phillip leads a procession to the Senate House at Cambridge University in Cambidgeshire (AFP /Getty)

She added: ‘It is not site-specific and is a work already purchased and has no relationship to this site. It is too large a scale for the context of the space it will be located within and will compromise the quality of the new development.’

Katie Thornburrow, the executive councillor for planning, building control and infrastructure wrote on her website: “Nobody, apart from the wealthy property developer who commissioned it, seems to have a good word to say about it.

“We will be glad to see it gone, but remain angry that developers could just dump it in place and then force the council to spend officers’ time and money getting them to take it away. We deserve better.”

The removal notice issued by the Greater Cambridge shared planning service said the statue seemed to appear within the last four years without permission and would have to be removed within four months of 11 April, unless an appeal was made beforehand.

Bill Gredley, the chairman of Unex group spoke out in support of the work in 2014 and said it was a ‘spectacular piece of art.’

A spokesman for Unex group told the Mail: ‘Mr Gredley and others consider it is a rather spectacular bronze with a difference, namely the head and shape as cast together with the bronze being coloured black to resemble the academic clothing and mortarboard.”

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