On the edge: Bexhill's new statue

PUBLISHED: 18:09 12 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:51 20 February 2013

On the edge: Bexhill's new statue

On the edge: Bexhill's new statue

Bexhill's iconic De La Warr Pavilion's edgy new statue is part of the Cultural Olympiad for the 2012 Games.

The first thing to say about the De La Warr Pavilions new artwork Hang On A Minute Lads, Ive Got A Great Idea is that you cant miss it. The sculpture is a lifesize replica of a coach balanced on the edge of the roof overlooking the car park.

It recreates the ending in The Italian Job movie when Charlie Croker and his gang are in the bus on the side of the Alps with their weight counterbalancing that of their haul in gold from their successful robbery in Turin.

At the very end Croker, played by Michael Caine, utters the line that gives the sculpture its name.

The work is the latest by artist Richard Wilson who was approached by the late director of the Pavilion Alan Haydon who was looking to follow up Antony Gormleys Critical Mass which exhibited on the roof terrace in 2010.

Wilson has a series of spectacular works in his portfolio, including Turning the Place Over in Liverpool in 2008 where a section cut from the faade of a modern office building rotated, showing the inside.

When he was deciding what to do at Bexhill he started thinking about the concept of edge in relation to the roof and the fact that the Pavilion is on the South Coast the edge where land meets sea.

He said: I started looking at other areas of the roof and I came up with the idea of a cliffhanger of a work, the re-enactment of a cinematic moment by putting a coach on the very edge of the top roof and have it teetering backwards and forwards.

The planning of the artwork took around 18 months. The actual installation was done in a day with the help of a 120-ton crane, filmed for TV and broadcast on national radio.

The piece is part of the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad but for a time it looked as though it would never happen as the finances didnt add up until Eddie Izzard, who grew up in Bexhill, and is Honorary Patron of the Pavilion, offered to help fill the funding gap to the tune of 70,000.

He said: This idea was Alan Haydons last. I heard about it about six months before he died and loved the idea but after his funeral people were saying it was not going to happen. People said it couldnt be done as the money just wasnt in place so I said, Go get any money you can and Ill make up the rest.

Its art but the kind of art I can grab hold of. I always find art rather intimidating but this was a sculpture of a moving bus from a famous classic British film that people from around the world would say, theres a what on the building? I loved the idea and I was just totally for it.

The icing on the cake for Izzard was when he carried the Olympic Torch past the sculpture last month.

It was great fun. It was a great honour and the bus was in the back of it there so it was everything going together. It was quite a lot of emotion.

So far the sculpture has been very popular with the public. Wilson said: I think in the first 10 days we had 25,000 people come to see the work which is astronomical. Its put Bexhill on the map. Weve been very successful with it and hopefully that success will continue through right into October.

Izzard said that he had not met anyone who didnt like it: The reaction has been amazing in Bexhill. I thought it would be 70 for and 30 per cent against but it is coming up 99 per cent for and the one per cent against I actually havent met.

People are coming from miles around. It is the only building in the world with a moving bus on the edge of it. Its a wonderful thing to have there.

I think it is unusual/unbelievable. Its the kind of piece of news that you have to say it twice. Then people say, what do you mean? and then you have to show them a photograph and they go, wow.

Now Bexhill needs to decide whether it wants to keep its sculpture. The current plan is for the exhibition to end in October and, hopefully, for it to be sold to a permanent home somewhere in the world.

However, there is always a slight chance it could stay longer, like the London Eye on the South Bank in the capital.

Wilson said: I think the only way it could stay permanently would be if the people of Bexhill got together and said we want our sculpture to stay. That would carry a lot of weight with English Heritage. But if not then it will have to come down and we will have to find another venue for it.

Izzard also hopes it has a longer future in Bexhill: I would like it to stay longer. Its such a wonderful thing. We should see how things develop.

Watch this space!

Entrance to see the sculpture is free. For opening times and more on the work and events at the De La Warr Pavilion visit http://www.dlwp.com

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