Statue moves!

Looks like the double-life-sized  torso of Olympic swimmer Mark Foster – which stands at the entrance to the SouthGate Shopping Centre – could shortly be on the move. However, the artist who sculpted it would rather it doesn’t budge and tells the Virtual Museum why..

mark fosterBen Dearnley’s giant Bath-stone plinth-based statue of the 6 feet and 6 inch sportsman has been welcoming people to the shopping complex since May of last year, but it seems the temporary planning permission has run out and it’s due to move to a new location outside the City of Bath College.

Ben told the Virtual Museum: ‘The sculpture was created over the period of one year in an open studio as a live carving project for Art at the Edge, as a celebration of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The nature of the design was carefully considered to work in an open space so as to allow the viewer to read the work in the round.

This is vital as the work has a dual aspect to its form with sunlight animating the rear aspect. The current SouthGate location was chosen as an ideal placement for the work.’mark foster

The front of the torso – says Ben – is a take on the classical fragment of the early Greek Olympian sculptures. This faces the old part of the city and looks  towards the old Roman Baths.

‘The rear holds the modern aspect, facing the modern part of the city. The hollowed out cave is a way of showing the visualisation the athlete goes through when training.

The cave  being a reference to the ‘zone’ he must get into, focusing on every detail to become the best in the world at his chosen discipline.

mark fosterThe sculpture works best here with direct sunlight  which illuminates the swimmer in a watery glow. The current placement is excellent for this and as the attached image shows, it works well on a sunny day.

The number of waves and  symbols which surround the swimmer are all clues to the number of world titles and records this amazing Bath trained athlete achieved in his career.

The lettering places the work in the present with the title, OLYMPIAN MMXII, carved in Roman type.’

Ben says he has been honoured to have been able to ‘create this legacy sculpture, to have been able to work directly with Mark and to have been able to show this work in its current location. I know that many of the national and international visitors who came to the studio (just behind the Royal Crescent) during its creation are looking forward to returning to Bath to see it again.

mark fosterMy hope is that the work will stay in its current location as a prominent lasting legacy to the fantastic celebrations we saw last year throughout the UK. Olympian 2012, stands for all the amazing athletes who show the whole world the absolute best of this human condition.’mark foster

Seems a site in front of the Macaulay Building in James Street West has been chosen for the statue’s re-location as stone masonry students from the City of Bath College made its plinth.

Bath City College
Macaulay Building, City of Bath College

A spokesman for B&NES said the SouthGate location had always been considered temporary and once negotiations over the cost of moving it have been completed, the artwork will be moved.

‘It will be highly visible in James Street West and still very much part of the 2012 legacy, ‘ he said.


It is a shame the statue has to move. People had become familiar with it as an artistic gateway to that extensive but pretty barren  shopping centre. What is it about Bath and art in public spaces? It is a focal point that even the buskers are drawn to.

Cope Building
Roper Building

en it comet its new location. I would have thought outside the Roper Building would have made it more obvious. It’s going to be hidden in the dip in front of the Macaulay Building. What do others think?

Sculptor Ben Dearnley has allowed me to include two direct links to short movies that show him at work in Bath on the Mark Foster torso. Do have a look!