Elephants have graveyards but what happens to old art? When exhibitions finish, the crowds go home and the critics turn their eyes elsewhere – what becomes of the sculptures they all flocked to see?
Reclaimed: The Second Life of Sculpture, at The Briggait in Glasgow from 5 April to 2 May, gives a second life to around 50 pieces which were loved and lauded then disappeared from view. Some are significant historic pieces, while others are by leading contemporary UK artists.
Many were created for one-off exhibitions while others were intended to last, perhaps as public works of art or in private collections. All help illustrate what the organisers call “the problem with sculpture” – the age-old issue of what does and should happen when it comes off display, goes out of fashion or is eclipsed by something new.
The exhibition is the largest and most ambitious ever staged by Wasps Artists’ Studios, dominating the interior of the splendid 19th century fish market which is its HQ.
Among the works on show is The Spirit of Kentigern, a large creation (sometimes known as a whale’s tail) which once had pride of place in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street, until the area was revamped.
Then there are skillfully carved marble busts of Victorians whose once-celebrated deeds have now slipped from memory. These sit beside large and often colourful pieces, some made as recently as 2013. That’s more recent even than the idea for the exhibition which was conceived two years ago by co-curators Michelle Emery Barker a curator at Wasps, Martin Craig of GOMA, and Kate V Robertson.