A series of bronze figures standing at Brixton station in south London—including two works thought to be the first public statues of black British people erected in the UK—are getting a makeover. The trio of works, entitled Platforms Piece, were made by the artist Kevin Atherton in 1986, and modelled on local residents Peter Lloyd, Joy Battick and Karin Heistermann.
In 2016 the works were given listed status by the heritage body Historic England but the works were left off a list compiled by the BBC earlier this month of statues of black individuals in the UK because the pieces are “not named historical figures”.
Atherton tells The Art Newspaper: “The statues haven't been overlooked by the travelling public but they have by the art world and consequently so have I. As a piece of public art, as far as the art world is concerned, I made the cardinal mistake of making a work of public art that the public actually liked.”
Platforms Piece was commissioned by British Rail in the 1980s as part of a station improvement scheme; the works are now owned and overseen by the rail operator Southeastern. The piece depicting Heistermann, a young German woman, was removed last year for “careful restoration” says a notice at the station. The weathered statues of Lloyd and Battick, who both worked at Brixton Recreation Centre, are still standing on the platforms.
A spokesman for Southeastern says: “Last year we had to remove one of the statues at Brixton station, as we'd found that it had deteriorated over time, to the extent that there were concerns that it could fall. This could further damage the statue and potentially cause a safety risk to passengers and to passing trains.” It is unclear when the statue will go back on display.
Southeastern is proposing to undertake ultrasonic testing on all three statues to investigate whether there are any underlying structural issues, the spokesman adds. “Once we have this information, we’ll be asking a specialist contractor to scope and undertake any repairs necessary.”