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Public Sculpture

A Grade II Listed Building in Norwich, Norfolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.6264 / 52°37'34"N

Longitude: 1.2975 / 1°17'51"E

OS Eastings: 623273

OS Northings: 308286

OS Grid: TG232082

Mapcode National: GBR W9M.GT

Mapcode Global: WHMTM.X71W

Entry Name: Public Sculpture

Listing Date: 10 September 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1457931

Location: Norwich, Norfolk, NR1

County: Norfolk

District: Norwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Mancroft

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Norwich

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Summary

‘Public Sculpture’, designed by Bernard Meadows in 1968 for the visitor entrance of the Eastern Counties Newspapers offices and print works at Prospect House in Norwich, unveiled in 1970.

Description

‘Public Sculpture’, designed by Bernard Meadows in 1968 for the visitor entrance of the Eastern Counties Newspapers offices and print works at Prospect House in Norwich, unveiled in 1970.

MATERIALS: the sculpture is constructed of blocks of bush-hammered granite aggregate concrete, and polished bronze balls.

PLAN: the sculpture is rectangular in plan and in two detached parts, the larger part standing to the exterior of the visitor entrance of Prospect House, and the smaller part standing within the interior of the visitor entrance.

DESCRIPTION: ‘Public Sculpture’ is an abstract sculpture in two detached pieces, standing to the exterior and interior of the visitor reception of Prospect House. It is crafted of blocks of bush-hammered granite aggregate concrete, and dimpled or punctured golden-coloured balls of polished bronze. The section of the sculpture to the exterior of the visitor entrance comprises a long narrow concrete base supporting a horizontal tapering strip of concrete, between which a small golden ball is squashed at the north end; over the horizontal strip of concrete sits a large golden ball at the north end; and three stacked golden balls and a single golden ball are squashed between blocks of concrete. The section of the sculpture within the interior of the visitor reception takes the form of two stacked concrete blocks, squashing a golden ball between them. The two parts of the sculpture stand approximately 15cm apart, with a detached glazed wall between the two. The sculpture measures approximately 6m in length (in total), 2.5m in height, and 0.6m in width.

History

The weekly Norfolk News was launched in Norwich in 1845, and expanded to become Eastern Counties Newspapers (ECN) by the mid-C20. In 1959 ECN commissioned London-based architects Yates, Cook and Darbyshire to design new company offices at 3-7 Redwell Street. The company rapidly outgrew these offices, and in 1965 negotiated a lease with the city council on a site at the corner of Golden Ball Street and Cattle Market Street. Again they commissioned Yates, Cook and Darbyshire to design a new office block, but this time incorporating a large print works. Yates, Cook and Darbyshire commenced practice in the 1920s, and designed several buildings on London’s Regent Street, a number of which are listed at Grade II. The practice also designed a number of racecourse grandstands and Odeon cinemas in the 1930s (all of which have been demolished or partially demolished), the Odhams Press building at Watford (1954), and Vogue House office building in Mayfair (1958), none of which are listed.

Eastern Counties Newspapers commissioned local sculptor Bernard Meadows (1915-2005) to design a sculpture for the visitor entrance of their new offices. Meadows was born in Norwich and attended Norwich School of Art. He became Henry Moore’s first assistant in 1936, and participated in the first Surrealist exhibition in London in the same year. He studied at the Royal College of Art (though his first application was rejected due to his association with Moore) and the Courtauld Institute. During the Second World War Meadows registered as a conscientious objector, but withdrew his objection when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. He served with the Royal Air Force, for a time in the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean where the greatest natural hazard was a variety of gigantic crab, which fascinated Meadows and influenced his sculpture after the war. Following the war he returned to Moore’s studio, and found his own acclaim with an elm sculpture entitled ‘Standing Figure’, which he exhibited at the 1951 Festival of Britain at Battersea Park (now in the collection of the Tate). The following year he exhibited at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, alongside a new generation of British sculptors, including Anthony Caro, Lynn Chadwick and Eduardo Paolozzi, for whose angular works the critic Herbert Read coined the term ‘the Geometry of Fear’. Meadows held his first solo exhibition in 1957, also exhibiting at the Sao Paulo Biennale in the same year, Documenta 2 in Kassel in 1959, and at the Venice Biennale in 1964. Meadows was commissioned to produce a bronze figurative sculpture titled ‘Spirit of Trade Unionism’ for the forecourt of the Trade Union Congress House in Great Russell Street in London in 1958, and the building and accompanying sculptures by Meadows and Jacob Epstein are collectively listed at Grade II*.

In the mid-1960s, Meadows replaced the naturalistic forms and textured finishes of his earlier sculptures with abstract forms and smooth, rounded, bronze surfaces. The element of fear and anxiety which characterised his early work, however, was retained. His ‘Pointing Figure with Child’ at Churchill College Cambridge (1966) is an abstract figurative scene executed in bronze, with the head of the mother and entire of the child formed of polished-bronze balls, the heads of each figure being dimpled or punctured. Two versions of ‘Help’ (1966, one in the Tate and one in the City of Bristol Art Gallery), comprise a dimpled ball squashed between two solid forms. Meadows developed the form of ‘Help’ in his ‘Public Sculpture’ for the Eastern Counties Newspapers offices at Prospect House, with polished golden-coloured bronze balls squashed between concrete blocks, and a large golden ball at the north end apparently liberated from the weight of the rest. The Woolpack Inn was constructed around the corner on Golden Ball Street in the 1930s, and its distinctive street sign is a tightly-bound and bulging golden woolpack. Meadows appears to reference this sculptural street sign in the stacked golden balls of his abstract sculpture. The artwork was accompanied by an exhibition of framed prints by Meadows in the visitor foyer of Prospect House (now in storage on site). Prospect House was officially opened and its sculpture unveiled by HRH Princess Alexandra on 29 April 1970. Meadows taught as Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1960 to 1980, where his students included Elisabeth Frink and Robert Clatworthy. He returned to assist Moore again from 1977, and after Moore’s death in 1986, became an acting director and then consultant to the Henry Moore Foundation. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park held a retrospective exhibition of Bernard Meadows’ work in 1995.


Reasons for Listing

‘Public Sculpture’, designed by Bernard Meadows in 1968 for the visitor entrance of Prospect House in Norwich, unveiled in 1970, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural and historic interest:

* as an accomplished and high quality, public work of art which, it is suggested, is intended to depict post-war anxieties and fears;
* as a work by local sculptor Bernard Meadows, who achieved national and international acclaim during his career;
* as a mature work by the artist, and the successful culmination of ideas developed in his abstract sculptures of the mid-1960s;
* as one of few public sculptures by Meadows which remain in the public realm, but also include his ‘Spirit of Trade Unionism’ in the forecourt of the Trade Union Congress House in London (1958), which together with another sculpture by Jacob Epstein are collectively listed at Grade II*;
* for the influential role and wider contribution of Meadows to British sculpture in the post-war period, including acting as assistant to Henry Moore from 1936 to 1986, and as Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1960 to 1980.
* as a fine example of the pioneering commissioning of art works by private companies for exhibition in the public realm in the post-war era.

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