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That Part of the Montague Shopping Centre Which is the Desert Quartet Sculptures with Supporting Loggia, Alexander Terrace

A Grade II* Listed Building in Worthing, West Sussex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.8108 / 50°48'39"N

Longitude: -0.3716 / 0°22'17"W

OS Eastings: 514821

OS Northings: 102518

OS Grid: TQ148025

Mapcode National: GBR HMP.2VS

Mapcode Global: FRA B63Y.H20

Entry Name: That Part of the Montague Shopping Centre Which is the Desert Quartet Sculptures with Supporting Loggia, Alexander Terrace

Listing Date: 11 May 2007

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391960

English Heritage Legacy ID: 503260

Location: Worthing, West Sussex, BN11

County: West Sussex

District: Worthing

Town: Worthing

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Built-Up Area: Worthing

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Worthing Holy Trinity with Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Listing Text


753/0/10053 LIVERPOOL GARDENS
11-MAY-07 That part of the Montague Shopping Centre which is the 'Desert Quartet' sculptures with supporting Loggia, Alexander Terrace II*

'Desert Quartet' sculpture, 1989, by Dame Elisabeth Frink and associated contemporary loggia in a classical style by the architect Graham Excell.

MATERIALS: Cast bronze sculpture. Stucco loggia.

PLAN: Four monumental cast bronze male heads on square metal pedestals, supported on rectangular three-bay loggia.

DESCRIPTION: 'Desert Quartet' comprises four cast bronze male heads of monumental scale, approximately 1 ½ metres high, each mounted on 2m high square bronze pedestals. There is a unity of form and design to the group although the treatment of each head and pedestal differs subtly from its neighbour; each head is unique in its features and expression. The heads have a textured surface, illustrative of Frink's method of carving and modelling a plaster former before casting in bronze. The neck or shoulder line of each sculpture projects beyond the pedestal line. Heads are bolted to their pedestals and the pedestals bolted onto the loggia beneath.

The loggia is stuccoed and painted and of three bays divided by rectangular piers with moulded capitals; each bay is in turn tripartite, subdivided by baseless Doric columns. Moulded entablature below the flat roof on which the Desert Quartet is arranged. Banded rustication to rear (east) elevation and flat piers with similar mouldings. Ceiling decorated in recessed panels with moulded details. Yellow brick wall as first floor level behind the Desert Quartet: low string course, flat piers
behind each head and slight projecting rectangular brick panels between the piers are arranged in groups of three between the heads.

HISTORY: In the mid-1980s a project to design a new shopping centre for Worthing was initiated but with particular design challenges on the Liverpool Street Gardens façade given the historical sensitivity of this part of the town. The site owner engaged the architect Graham Excell to design a scheme and the possibility of bespoke sculpture for the façade was discussed with Elisabeth Frink in 1985. Her letter to the developer's architect of June 1985 indicates her enthusiasm for the commission: 'I assure you that I find it very exciting and it must be a unique opportunity to create something seldom attempted, let alone achieved, in Europe for many a decade. It is a project I would enjoy undertaking enormously.' Although her initial design was a combination of human and animal figures, and then four monumental horses, these were abandoned (partly because of Dame Elisabeth¿s growing frailty) in favour of the anthropomorphic 'Desert Quartet'. The work, and hence its name, was inspired by ancient monuments that the sculptor had visited in the Tunisia desert, and possesses classical monumentality.

The loggia is by Graham Excell who also designed the pedestals which support the heads. The loggia was constructed in 1988-9 and the sculpture installed in 1989. The site owner and architect supervised the installation, specifying the position and subtleties of orientation of the four heads. The associated shopping centre, the Montague Centre, opened in June 1990 when the sculptures were also formerly unveiled. Elisabeth Frink attended the unveiling and expressed her contentment with the result.

Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) was an artist of international repute who was both a printmaker and sculptor, although sculpture is perhaps her best known medium. She studied at Guildford School of Art and Chelsea School of Art in the 1940s and 50s before going on to teach at the latter, St Martin's School of Art and the Royal College of Art. She was elected to the Royal Academy in 1977, was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1982 and received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. She held her first solo exhibition in 1955 and gained her first major public commission in 1957, 'Boar' for Harlow New Town. In the same year she began 'Blind Beggar and Dog' for the Cranbrook Estate housing scheme in Bethnal Green a sculpture, now listed at Grade II*. Frink accepted commissions for a number of public works as she was fascinated by the relationship between art and public spaces. Her work is curated by a number of major collections, including Tate Modern, and has been subject of numerous exhibitions and retrospectives.

Themes which dominated her sculptural work included zoomorphic designs, often dogs, horses or birds, and the male form, either as figures or heads. She explained how 'Heads have always been very important to me as vehicles for sculpture. A head in infinitely variable. It's complicated, and it's extremely emotional. Everyone's emotions are in their face. It's not surprising that there are sculptures of massive heads going way back, or that lots of other artists beside myself have found the subject fascinating.' (Lucie-Smith 1994, p125). The 'Desert Quartet' is one of the artist¿s last public works and can be seen as the pinnacle of her exploration of this theme.

SOURCES:
Harwood, E, 2000, A guide to post-war listed buildings; England. Batsford
Lucie-Smith, E, 1994, Frink, a Portrait. Bloomsbury
Marston, S, 1995, A report on recommendations for listing of postwar public sculpture and murals 1947-1965. English Heritage
Robertson, B et al, 1984, Elisabeth Frink, Catologue Raisonné. Harpvale Press
http://www.beauxartslondon.co.uk/LF-pic-index.html
www.jerwoodsculpture.org/collectionandartists/artists
www.sculpture.org.uk/biography/ElisabethFrink

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The 'Desert Quartet' is a major public artwork by the celebrated sculptor Elisabeth Frink. The sculpture comprises four monumental male heads cast in bronze on square pedestals. The sculpture is located on a classical style loggia by the architect Graham Excell. Both sculpture and loggia were completed in 1989. The 'Desert Quartet' and loggia are bespoke designs for this particularly setting in Worthing and represent Frink's commitment and interest to public artworks and their relationship with their setting. The sculpture represents the culmination of a long exploration of the male head by Frink, a theme which had fascinated her throughout her career and on which subject a number of her works are based. However, the 'Desert Quartet' is unusual in the combination of four heads, with the subtleties of individuality of form and expression which they express. The sculpture is therefore of more than special interest as a highly significant late C20 bespoke public artwork. The supporting loggia is complementary in style, but the high degree of special interest resides in the sculptures. The rest of the shopping centre is not regarded as of special interest.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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