Major Public Sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi at Risk as Owners Can’t Be Found

The privatization of its commissioner Network Rail has created a loophole.

Eduardo Paolozzi’s Piscator (1980), outside London’s Euston Station. Photo Elliott Brown, courstesy Wikimedia Commons.
Eduardo Paolozzi’s Piscator (1980), outside London’s Euston Station. Photo Elliott Brown, courstesy Wikimedia Commons.

An important public sculpture by renowned British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, located outside London’s busy Euston station, is at risk of decay because neither the Network Rail nor its leaseholder would take responsibility for it.

Paolozzi’s Piscator was commissioned for the site where it stills stands by the British Rail in 1980, the Guardian reports. But following the privatization of the network, the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation has been struggling to ascertain who’s the current actual owner of the piece, and demand it be restored.

“Originally it was acquired by British Rail but, after privatization, ownership of this work […] on the British Rail estate fell into a black hole,” Toby Treves, former Tate curator and trustee of the foundation, told the Guardian.

“We have been trying to find out if Network Rail owns it, but they have been extremely slow in coming back to us—presumably because, if it is their responsibility, they don’t want to have to pay to maintain it,” he added.

This is not the first major piece by the artist to face danger. His much-loved 1984 mosaics covering the walls of London’s Tottenham Court Road station were saved from destruction last year, as the station underwent a major renovation to accommodate the development of the city’s new Crossrail.

Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaic decoration on Tottenham Court Road tube station (1984). Photo Sunil060902, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaic decoration on Tottenham Court Road tube station (1984). Photo Sunil060902, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Following an online petition to save the mosaic, signed by 8,646 people, Edinburgh University stepped in. The mosaic murals will be reconstructed over the next few years at the Edinburgh College of Art, according to the Guardian.

The 3.1 x 4.6 x 1.85 meters Piscator hasn’t had such luck so far, with Network Rail telling the Guardian that “[it] does not own the Piscator sculpture and so is not responsible for maintaining it. Though we are the freeholder of the land it sits on, the leaseholder of that area is Sydney & London [Properties].”

The easy conservation of Piscator was in fact a key concern for Paolozzi—whose body of work will soon be the subject of a major retrospective at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, opening in February 2017.

Of the piece, he said: “Because of a reasonable budget, we were able to spend some time on research and use the same kinds of paints that have been developed for oil rigs, which are absolutely vandal-proof, which was one of the considerations, and will also be able to sustain without any maintenance for a period of time.”

Alas, 36 years later, it seems like that hassle-free period is up, and restoration works are now a pressing matter.

“The absurdity of this is that the foundation would willingly pay to restore and clean the sculpture, but we can’t do it without the permission of the owners and, since nobody seems to know who they are, the sculpture languishes unloved and filthy,” Treves told the Guardian of the Kafkaesque loophole the foundation is facing.


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