One of Sir Antony Gormley’s first life-size male figures is at the centre of a mystery after it was revealed that it has been missing for three decades.
The sculpture disappeared, according to art world insiders, during a dispute between the artist and a local authority after a garden festival where it had been the star attraction.
Historic England will launch a hunt today for the missing sculpture, which would be likely to fetch a seven-figure sum at auction, and other pieces of public art that have disappeared. Historic England has also given statutory protection to several works in the northeast of England to help to ensure that they do not disappear or get damaged.
Gormley’s A View: A Place was commissioned in 1986 for the Stoke-on-Trent garden festival. The lead, fibreglass and plaster human figure was a forerunner to similar well-known Gormley sculptures, such as The Angel of the North and Another Place, a collection of 100 cast-iron human figures on Crosby Beach in Liverpool.
Katey Goodwin, the sculpture project manager with the website Art UK, said that it was thought the sculpture had disappeared during a dispute between the artist and Stoke city council over its ownership. Neither Gormley nor the council would comment yesterday.
“It is a mystery as to what happened to it,” Ms Goodwin said. “It would have been among his early ones and I would have thought it would have some financial value.”
Historic England hopes a public appeal will shed light on the whereabouts of the sculpture. It has been running a campaign to track down missing pieces of public art across the country.
Today it will add five works to the National Heritage List for England.
One of the pieces, Spiral Nebula, which was created by Geoffrey Clarke in 1962 to adorn the Herschel Building at Newcastle University, had fallen into disrepair and its polished steel antennae had been stolen.
Historic England will open a free exhibition today at Bessie Surtees House in Newcastle to tell the stories behind works of art that remain and those that have been lost.