17th Sep, 2021

George Wagstaffe's internationally renowned sculpture Naiad to take pride of place in Coventry again

Tristan Harris 6th Jul, 2021 Updated: 6th Jul, 2021

THE INTERNATIONALLY renowned Naiad sculpture by famous Coventry artist George Wagstaffe is set to take pride of place in a fitting spot in the city centre where it belongs after years of being moved around.

It originally stood in the Earl Street Courtyard, opposite the Council House, for around 50 years.

The artwork won the ICA Young Contemporary Sculpture prize in the late 1950s and was one of the first to receive this prestigious recognition.

It was controversially moved by a private firm and, in the process, the rock on which it sat – specially quarried from the city and sculpted to fit by the artist – was destroyed.

It was then installed in Lady Herbert’s Garden as part of the millennium garden where, a short time later, there was an attempt to steal it.

It was hacked from the studs which held it in place and hidden in a hedge ready to be carted away and presumably melted down. Fortunately, it was spotted by ground staff who arrived early in the morning before it could be taken.

It was removed into a gardeners’ store (the gate house) for its ‘protection’ and was ignored for many years where the nationally acclaimed artwork and part of Coventry’s post-war heritage – suffered further damage, requiring expensive repairs and renovation.

It was purchased for the City by Arthur Ling. Significantly it was the first major piece of Coventry public art commissioned following the Second World War.

It was also the first major work by George who, still living and working in the city, has contributed to the arts and artistic community in this city for over 60 years.

After a great deal of lobbying by George, Vincent Hammersley and the Coventry Council Conservation officer, they were granted permission to view Naiad where she has been stored for ten years.

The statue has suffered damage from a form of corrosion due to the conditions in which it has been kept and it required urgent remedial work which the sculptor himself offered to facilitate. With the help of Coun Jayne Innes funds were found and the remedial work carried out.

Following its conservation, it was delivered to the Council House for safe keeping by George.

It was then moved to Friargate where it has been displayed in the reception lobby which was not an ideal setting as it is a water sculpture – Naiad being a water nymph.

Vincent said: “Finally, after many years of neglect and abuse and lobbying by myself and others,

“Naiad is to be returned to a setting which befits its importance second only to the Godiva statue.

“She is soon to be installed as part of a water feature at the top of the Upper Precinct.

“This is indeed good news but many feel that our public art deserves greater respect and there are still around a dozen ‘missing’ public artworks in this city.”

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