A giant statue of a crouching female figure said to be the largest bronze sculpture in the U.K. was hoisted into its permanent place in front of the Theatre Royal Plymouth in South West England on Monday. The giant sculpture, Messenger (2019), is by British sculptor Joseph Hillier; it stands about 23 feet tall and weighs some 10.5 tons. About 30 people worked on the sculpture for two years at a foundry in Wales, using the lost wax casting technique to create the 200 individual panels that were pieced together to create the bronze colossus.
Because of the sculpture’s enormous size, it had to be delivered to Plymouth by water, sailing into port on a barge Monday morning before being lifted onto a giant truck reminiscent of the rig used to realize Michale Heizer’s Levitated Mass (2012), and taken to the front steps of Theatre Royal Plymouth. After foundation work is completed at its new home, the sculpture will be formally unveiled Friday.
Adrian Vinken, the chief executive of Theatre Royal Plymouth, which commissioned the sculpture, said in a statement:
We believe that a sculpture of this quality and scale will have a positive transformational impact not just on our Theatre but also on the whole of Plymouth’s city centre. A major piece of public art can transform the world’s perception of what a place is like; it makes a statement about a city—it’s ambitious, it’s contemporary, and it’s forward looking. It will create a unique landmark for the city and strengthen its cultural offering. In time it may become one of those iconic figures that destinations become forever associated with. It will cause controversy..
Vinken went on to liken Hillier’s sculpture to Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North (1998) in Gateshead in northern England. Another example of controversy-stoking statue closer to home might be Damien Hirst’s bronze sculpture Verity (2012), which stands sentinel over the harbor entrance in Ilfracombe some 74 miles to the north.