Public Art that is not there any more
Between Shelton Square and Smithford Way there have been many public works of art that are no longer there. Some were only intended as temporary features, whilst others have been moved to other places or put into store. Most were commissioned as the result of competitions organised by the City Planning Committee and the Coventry College of Art.
The first to be featured is this Untitled sculpture by Geoffrey Greetham. It was in the form of a welded box section outside the Canadian Fur shop in Market Way and was there from 1965 to 1974. It was climbed on by many a small child but it was moved to enable some maple trees to be planted which were donated by the Fur shop. It was last seen near the scrap metal pile in the City Engineers Depot. The original light steel full size Art College model is currently in the grounds of Exhall Grange School.
A bit further along Market Way was this sculpture “Abstract Forms” by Elizabeth Greenwood. It consisted of three differently shaped large crescent shaped stones, each one balanced on top of the other. This was again commissioned by the City Planning Committee and the Art College in 1961, under the direction of the new City Architect Arthur Ling. It was removed when Coventry Point was being built. Its current whereabouts are not known.
Abstract Forms by Elizabeth Greenwood
Further along Market Way was the “Phoenix” by George Wagstaffe, but this was moved to the bottom of Hertford Street.
In Smithford Way there was the “Civic Sculpture” by Ted Atkinson, in front of the Locarno Dance Hall (which is now the Central Library).
Edward (Ted) Atkinson (1928 – 2016) was trained as a sculptor, first at Liverpool College of Art, then at the Central School of Art, London. He was a tutor at the Coventry College of Art from 1967 – 1970. There were three elements to the work, consisting of three standing shapes. The central standing shape, which was tall and slender, was damaged and has been lost but the other two figures are now in storage.
The sculptor described his work as ‘three totem-like shapes standing side by side . . . to form a sculptural screen’.The bulbous form of the work and its smooth machine-like finish, relate this work to the sculptures by Joannis Avramidis of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This piece was commissioned after twelve years of discussion between the planning committee, British Home Stores and Marks and Spencer. The two companies had taken the premises in the Upper Precinct on the understanding that they would provide some sort of sculptural work associated with their buildings. Donald Gibson, the city architect, had planned that this work would take the form of sculptural reliefs in Caen stone installed on the exterior walls of the two buildings, but his successor Arthur Ling, changed the plan, first to free-standing pieces projecting out from the walls, and then to a free-standing work in Smithford Way. BHS pulled out of the scheme, but Marks and Spencer’s made £1000 available for the scheme. In 1962 Arthur Ling suggested Elizabeth Frink’s work, but the Committee were unable to agree to this idea. Instead the city architect, art director and art college principal were asked to suggest alternative ways of selecting a piece of sculpture. Their report suggested a piece of sculpture based on the theme of ‘future technological progress’ be commissioned from a ‘younger sculptor of potential reputation’. Ted Atkinson was asked to submit a maquette and was then commissioned to carry out the work. The work was removed in circa 1985. The central, tall element had been damaged by revellers and has since gone been missing.
Over the years Ted Atkinson FRBS contributed to many shows nationally and internationally with the main body of work directed towards architectural commissions, with major public sculptures sited in Britain, Germany, Holland and the USA. In 1988, along with Moore, Frink and Armitage, he was one of six sculptors invited to represent Britain at Expo’88 exhibition in Brisbane.
Also in Smithford Way was “Divide Column” by Christina Lewis. This was also a commission by the City Planning Committee and the City Art College in 1961. Unfortunately it got badly weather damaged; it was made from wire mesh and resin which was made to look like stone but it soon started to fall apart. It was taken away after a few years and its whereabouts are not known.
“Divide Column” by Christina Lewis