Three years after its resident statue was brought in from the cold to the Art Gallery, it looks like Leeds Park Square isn’t going to get a replacement after all. And it’s largely down to the scrap value of bronze.
Victorian sculptor Alfred Drury’s bronze of Circe stood on a brick plinth in the Georgian square for half a century before she was removed, covered in verdigris and missing her wand, wreath and cup, to be restored and kept indoors at the gallery. The deal struck in 2007 was that she was going to be replaced by another less valuable bronze – a 19th century cast of a Renaissance Mercury.
Four years on and the Council’s Museums and Galleries organisation says it now plans to leave the square with no statue. And it’s asking the Secretary of State to retrospectively endorse the move.
The trouble is Leeds City Council’s Museums and Galleries organisation is strapped for cash and worried about the security of any bronze statue being displayed outdoors in a public space.
“There is no longer any funding available for the costs of installation, the proposed stone plinth, cleaning and cold wax treatment and subsequent maintenance of the ‘Mercury’ or similar statute (sic),” a report to the Council’s City Plans Panel says.
“Since 2007 the scrap value of bronze has doubled, making statues more attractive to thieves. The gardens are set in a primarily commercial setting whereby there may be little presence outside office hours to offer natural surveillance of the statue,” it adds.
Museums and Galleries says it has been looking for a replacement for Circe made of a “less vulnerable” material – concrete say – but “there are no reserves to fund such a commission and it is questioned if Park Square would be appropriate for such an installation”.