Iconic Brighton dolphins reporpoised for new city centre sculpture

Posted On 05 Nov 2020 at 5:29 pm

Three 180-year-old dolphin statues have been repurposed to form part of a new public art installation planned for a Brighton square.

The cast iron cetaceans, originally created as part of the Old Steine’s Victoria Fountain, are to return to public display after 30 years in storage.

They will form the base of artist Steve Geliot’s latest work Waves of Compassion, which, planning permission permitting, will be situated at the north end of Norfolk Square between the two commercial kiosks. 

An artist’s impression of the sculpture.

Norfolk Square residents have worked closely with Mr Geliot on the commission.

Damian Magee, of Norfolk Square Gardens Facebook group, said: “It’s all about collaboration, all about working together with the community. It’s all about place changing and creating something residents and visitors can enjoy. People need green spaces more than ever before so we are very excited about this project.”

The new sculpture, believed to have cost around £24,000, was commissioned by Brighton and Hove City Council using funding from the development of the Montpelier Place Baptist Church site.

The dolphins were removed from Victoria Fountain when extensive refurbishment was undertaken in 1990. They had been poorly maintained and became too weak to continue supporting the huge bowl of water which lay on their tails.

Replacements were created and the originals stored by the council at Stanmer Park.

Despite lying outdoors for 30 years, Mr Geliot said they were in relatively good condition when they were removed for restoration back in February.

He is currently working on the installation at a Blacksmith’s forge in Pulborough where they are being prepared for public display.

The Brighton-based artist, who along with Fiona Atkinson was responsible for the West Pier “Spiral”, will create a wave which will sit where the fountain bowl once resided and one of four “shipwrecks” will balance on the wave. The shipwrecks will be switched throughout the year.

One of Steve Geliot’s ‘shipwrecks’.

He said: “It’s a real privilege to be asked to work something like this.

“It is so nice to see the diversity of public art in the city. It is one of the few things we can still do, in terms of human expression, that is safe. Getting outside and looking at public art is totally covid safe.”

The artist is yet to decide on which shipwreck will be immortalised in the fourth sculpture and is open to suggestions from members of the public. 

“The theme of the sculpture is compassion and emphasising the importance of compassion and the shipwreck pieces will reflect that.”

Mr Geliot is currently working on the planning application for the piece and hopes it will be installed early next year.

A council spokesman said: “The council was keen to see them reused in a public space in Brighton and Hove and when funding was agreed for an art installation in Norfolk Square they were made available for the artists to use.”

The dolphins were originally part of Amon Henry Wilds’ Victoria Fountain on the Old Steine.

The dolphins were created by William Pepper for Amon Henry Wilds’ Old Steine fountain which was commissioned in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s 27th birthday.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Though the headline is another example of “iconic” being over-used, this is cheering news. It is worth adding that the building on Montpelier Place has been done well (we need more like it), and is certainly far better than the shack and car park which were there previously.

  2. Debbie Reply

    I hope that the ships will have a connection to Brighton. I know there was talk of a Cornish ship wreck being immortalised on this Brighton fountain.

  3. Terry Hough Reply

    Can you comferm that the sea life place was once A place where they had dohpines as I think I remember them

  4. Lynne Reply

    Thrilled to hear that these original dolphins haven’t been lost …. happy memories of the fountain and gardens all those years ago…….

  5. Rolivan Reply

    I wonder what other hidden gems there are that the Council has hidden away that could be used.The old clock that used to be in the original foyer at The Museum hasn’t seen the light of day for decades, along with the other nearly 2 million artefacts that are stored at great cost but will only be seen if they are liked by a curator.

  6. Bradly this Reply

    Nice piece notwithstanding appalling headline pun: I trust I can take it in turns to sit on the heads with a can of special brew waiting for the dealers…
    Shapeshifters here we come

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