Object Details

Desert Quartet

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Makers
General Information
Classification
Object Parts
Object Condition
History
References
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Author: Jill Seddon
Copyright for Photograph:

Creative Commons

Location

Street:Liverpool Gardens
Town:Worthing
Parish:Worthing
Council:Adur District Council
County:West Sussex
Postcode:BN11
Location on Google Map
Object setting:On building
Access is:Public
Location note:Top of rear colonnade, Montague Shopping Centre
In the AZ book:West Sussex
Page:171
Grid reference:H2
The A-Z books used are A-Z East Sussex and A-Z West Sussex (Editions 1A 2005). Geographers' A-Z Map Company Ltd. Sevenoaks.

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Makers

Name : Elisabeth Frink
     Role:Sculptor

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General Information

Commissioned by: The Avon Group, Worthing.
Construction period:1989
Installation date:1990
Unveiling date:13/06/1990
Work is:Extant
Owner custodian:Worthing Borough Council
Object listing:Grade II*: particularly important and of more than special interest
Listing date:15/05/2007
Description:Four male heads mounted on plinths on top of an architectural colonnade. Set against a yellow brick façade. The heads are depicted without hair, the surface covered with rhythmic marks.
Iconographical description:Inspired by the white sand and the 'feeling' that Frink got in Tunisia.

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Classification

Categories:Sculptural, Free Standing, Composite
Object type1:Sculpture
Subject type1:Figurative
     Subject subtype1:Group

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Object Parts

Part 1:Desert Quartet I
     Material:Bronze
     Height (cm):130.8
     Width (cm):124.5
     Depth (cm):87.6
Part 2:Desert Quartet II
     Material:Bronze
     Height (cm):128
     Width (cm):116.8
     Depth (cm):76.2
Part 3:Desert Quartet III
     Material:Bronze
     Height (cm):127
     Width (cm):115.6
     Depth (cm):76.2
Part 4:Desert Quartet IV
     Material:Bronze
     Height (cm):122.5
     Width (cm):109.3
     Depth (cm):80

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Object Condition

Overall condition:Good
Risk assessment:No known risk
Condition 1 of type:Surface
     Condition 1: Bird Guano
Date of on-site inspection:08/10/2007

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History

History:The inspiration for the heads came from a visit to the Tunisian Desert. Each head is in an edition of 6.
('Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture Since 1984 and Drawings')

Worthing Herald, Friday 1 June 1990 p.5 “Montague Sculptures Unveiling’
Commissioned by Worthing-based Avon Group. Unveiling 12 noon Wed. June 13th, by Peter Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council. ‘Dame Elisabeth Frink will be among the guests at the ceremony. The four huge bronze male heads each about four feet high and set on 7ft plinths, have been produced in her Dorset studio. Called desert Quartet, they are expected to attract worldwide attention and comment. Avon development director Maurice Brocklesby said,'The sculptures are a major contribution to Britain’s treasury of contemporary art and will give added distinction to a development which is already being acclaimed for its style.’

Worthing Herald, 15 June 1990 p.1 ‘Dame Causes a Stir’
‘Four controversial new sculptures were unveiled in Worthing on Wednesday- to very mixed reaction. Some loved them, some hated them. But one thing is for sure- everyone was taking about them. The subject of debate was four bronze heads displayed at the Montague Centre. Made by the renowned British sculptor Dame Elisabeth Frink, the abstract designs caused a real stir when revealed for the first time at the centenary ceremony. Avon Group chairman Humphrey Avon led the proceedings with Worthing Mayor Michael Clinch. ‘I think they’re fantastic’ said Mr Clinch. ‘I am very pleased we have a fine example, by an internationally renowned artist in our town.’ Borough Council chief Michael Ball gave his nod of approval to the Desert Quartet. ‘There is no doubt they are most compelling’, he said. ‘It complements the rest of the architecture.’ But Deputy Mayor Bert Dockerty was not so sure. ‘They are interesting though a little bit sombre.’ Tory Connie Scott was also less than pleased. And the general reaction of the public was one of horror. ‘They’re horrible’, said Mrs Diana Cotton; They just don’t go with the town.’

Worthing Herald, June 22nd 1990 p.10, letters
‘Heads Symbol of Society’
‘Many local artists would agree the Elisabeth Frink’s heads will give a tremendous boost to Worthing and might even herald a new era here. We are desperately in need of an art centre, a workshop centre for creating a more imaginative approach for all who are interested in any form of art in our community. Now that Mr Richard Luce, Minister of Arts, has taken up painting, perhaps he is in a better position to look kindly at our plea. I see that several viewers of the Desert Quartet are highly critical of the work. The heads however must surely be seen as symbols of society today. They are looking at you. Therefore you must look back at them. In doing so you may well see a resemblance to a friend, a relative –or even a reflection of one’s own self! Education to this is why we need an art centre.’
(Mrs) Peta Colin, 33 Rose Walk, Goring

‘Why the Faces Show Disgust’
‘Anyone could have been forgiven for thinking something important was happening at the Montague Centre last Wednesday. Uniformed and plain-clothes police were in strong evidence. Post boxes were sealed, police officers searched people wanting access to the offices along the terrace. False turf covered the unsightly brown patches of the gardens. All for what? So that a privileged few could watch four bronze sculptures rear their ugly heads. Small wonder the faces have such an expression of disgust. They must be shocked to see where the have ended up, wonderful Worthing.’
Diana Olive, 65 Portland Road, Worthing.

In 2007, The Worthing Society, the PMSA, the 20th Century Society and other organisations petitioned the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, via English Heritage to list the sculptures to protect them from developers. Humphrey Avon, who originally commissioned the sculptures, had planned to remove them. Objectors insisted that Avon had gifted them to the Town Centre. Frink was originally commissioned in 1985, but due to ill-health could not finish the original sculptures she was working on for the site. The heads were offered instead. The Worthing Society were informed in May 2007 that the sculptures and their supporting loggia had been listed as a Grade II*. It was the first time that a public sculpture had been listed within the 30 year rule period.

The original plaster heads were cast in bronze in an edition of 6.

Campaigners call for re-Frink on statues
Campaigners bidding to save four iconic statues will present their protest petition to a Mayor this weekend. More than 1,200 people have signed the petition in a bid to stop developer Humphrey Avon removing the bronze busts from a town centre shopping arcade. Mr Avon said he owned the statues, called Desert Quartet, which overlook Liverpool Gardens from a plinth on the Montague Centre in Worthing. The busts, sculpted by the late Dame Elisabeth Frink, were unveiled in 1990 when the centre was opened. A previous bid by Mr Avon to remove them was rejected by councillors. He later launched a competition, with a £10,000 first prize, to replace the Desert Quartet, said by art commentators to be worth £2 million at auction, with a set of new bronzes. But protesters said Mr Avon, who developed the Montague Centre, had ''gifted'' the busts to the town - a claim he rejects. Mr Avon suffered a blow when campaigners succeeded in getting the Desert Quartet listed, but he has now appealed to the Government in a bid to overturn the order. He also instructed solicitors Thomas Eggar, of Liverpool Gardens, to state that Mr Avon was the lawful owner of the Frink heads. The petition will be presented by disabled artist Alison Lapper to Worthing Mayor Heather Mercer in Liverpool Gardens on Saturday at noon. Alison was the first to sign the petition, followed by coun Mercer's husband Keith, leader of the borough council. Ted Kennard, spokesman for the Worthing Society conservation group, said: ''Alison has been really helpful in giving extra impetus to our campaign to retain the Desert Quartet in Worthing. ''She is an important spokesperson for public art, not to mention a major artist in her own right. I would love to see lots of people from Worthing turn out for this important occasion. ''Our campaign has been described as one of the most vital of its kind in the context of protecting public art in Britain. The support within the town has been outstanding.'' Mr Avon has declined to say what he plans to do with the Desert Quartet if they are removed.
(Brighton Argus Thursday 21st June 2007, By Paul Holden)

See the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website for further information about the case for listing (http://www.culture.gov.uk/)
Hard archive file:Yes

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References

Source 1 :
     Title:'Elisabeth Frink: Recent Sculpture and Drawings'
     Type:Book
     Author:Lucie-Smith, Edward.
     Date:00/11/1989
     Publisher:Fischer Fine Art, London. Exhibition catalogue.

Source 2 :
     Title:'Frink: the official biography of Elisabeth Frink'
     Type:Book
     Author:Gardiner, Stephen.
     Date:00/00/1998
     Page:267
     Publisher:Harper Collins. London.

Source 3 :
     Title:'Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture Since 1984 and Drawings'
     Type:Book
     Author:Lucie-Smith, Edward.
     Date:00/00/1994
     Page:67-73
     Publisher:Art Books International. London.


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Photographs





Date: 03/10/2007
Author: Jill Seddon
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 08/08/2008
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 03/10/2007
Author: Jill Seddon
Copyright: Creative Commons




Date: 08/08/2008
Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons

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