Images © Anne-Marie Hayes
Two of Birmingham’s most iconic statues - Boulton, Watt and Murdoch and Iron: Man - will be temporarily removed from their familiar sites, to allow ongoing transformation of the city centre to progress, in the coming weeks.
Preparations to remove Boulton, Watt and Murdoch on Broad Street are expected to begin in late August and Iron: Man is expected to move in early September, as the next phase of regeneration works around Centenary Square and Paradise begins. Both will return to public view in late 2018.
Birmingham Museums Trust is responsible for both of the public artworks and cares for them on behalf of Birmingham City Council.
The Birmingham Museums’ Collections Care team have overseen the consultation and appointment of Allelys, and conservation specialist Ian Clark Restoration, who will undertake the removal and transportation of these statues.
Experts from Birmingham Museums will be involved throughout the process to ensure the artworks are conserved and stored safely at a secure location.
Rob Lewis, Collections Care Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The statues are an important part of the city’s collection and we are pleased to oversee the plans to ensure the two artworks are cared for during this process. We look forward to welcoming them back in the future, so the public can enjoy them once more and learn about Birmingham’s industrial heritage.”
Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Both of these statues are important to Birmingham and its citizens, which is why we’re putting them into temporary storage with the support of Birmingham Museums Trust. This will enable regeneration works in Centenary Square, Broad Street and Paradise – and the city centre’s transformation – to progress. I look forward seeing them back on public display next year.”
Boulton, Watt and Murdoch is the work of William Bloye, formerly head of sculpture at Birmingham School of Art, and sculptor Raymond Forbes-Kings. Standing on Broad Street it depicts the three pioneering figures of the industrial revolution discussing engine plans. Made of bronze with a gold finish, the larger-than-life size figures stand on a pedestal of Portland stone.
Iron: Man was created by renowned sculptor Antony Gormley and stands prominently in Victoria Square near Pinfold Street. Cast at Firth Rixon Castings in Willenhall, the statue also has links to the city’s industrial heritage as it represents the traditional skills of the people of Birmingham and the Black Country.
Erected in March 1993, the sculpture, which weighs six tonnes, was a gift to the city from the Trustee Savings Bank. It was originally named Untitled, but became known as Iron Man by residents, and so Gormley requested for its name to be formally changed to its current title.
The temporary move has been supported by the sculptor, Antony Gormley.
He said: "Birmingham, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, is made by the extraordinary number of its citizens who were, and continue to be, skilled engineers, foundrymen and ironworkers. Iron: Man was an attempt to ask a material question: what will the womb/crucible of the industrial revolution produce - what kind of collective or individual body? This question is still open and relevant. I am proud that Iron: Man will return to its place in Victoria Square asking questions about the future."
Collections Care experts from Birmingham Museum Trust, which oversees the care of part of the city’s collection of public art, also advise on suitable cleaning methods that will be undertaken by conservation specialists while the statues are in storage.
Both statues will join other works of public art which are already placed in temporary storage while regeneration works continue in some of the city’s public spaces.