Disappointed over council’s rejection of sculpture

THE Fairlight Arts Trust is naturally disappointed that the officers and elected councillors of Hastings Borough Council have chosen to reject the planning application for a major public art commission for the Pelham Roundabout.

Opinions and preferences for contemporary art have, and always will be subjective and controversial. When the council invited the trust to be involved in the restoration of the dilapidated Pelham roundabout, the trust was happy to give £100,000 to fund the project.

Multiple contemporary artists including Marcus Harvey and Hastings’ own Chapman Brothers were invited to submit proposals for the project, and eminent members of the contemporary art world including Michael Craig Martin and Gavin Turk agreed to give of their time freely to advise on a short list for presentation to the residents and wider Hastings community (including all council officers and elected Hastings councillors).

Outline planning permission for a piece of contemporary art was granted and the trust proceeded with meetings with the council and the county council highways department to ensure all due consideration was given to safety, sight lines and context (Iceland, Aquilla House, the seafront car park, the Italian Way restaurant) etc.

Following public consultation in various locations in town and a further meeting of the trust selection panel in spring 2013, the Aluminium Helter Skelter by the established British artist Henry Krokatsis, was the popular choice.

At no stage until the trust was shown the planning officers’ recommendation of rejection for the sculpture just before Christmas, was the trust made aware of the councillors’ concerns.

In fact the council paid the first stage payment for the commission to the artist directly, funded by the trust. It did feel a little as if the trust had been invited to a party, asked to pay for the champagne, and then refused entry on the night.

It is entirely reasonable for the planning committee to dislike the scale and style of a major public art commission in a prominent location on the seafront. It is perhaps a little much for it to expect others to spend time and expense on preparing to make a major gift to the town without due warning of it not being wanted.

Sussex councillors have ‘form’ in this department: in 1914 a French artist allowed an enormous piece of public sculpture to be displayed in Lewes Town Hall. The following year in 1915 the councillors wrapped the statue in canvas and returned it because it did not ‘lend itself’ to the town hall. The French artist in Question Auguste Rodin, the artwork: The Kiss.

SARAH KOWITZ

Trustee

Fairlight Arts Trust