Fears for public safety as controversial Kirkcaldy sculpture falls apart

A crumbling piece of public art in Kirkcaldy has sparked fears over public safety, forcing Fife Council to erect fencing to keep people away.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 12:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 1:34 pm
Pieces of the controversial David Mach sculpture are now falling off sparking safety fears.
Pieces of the controversial David Mach sculpture are now falling off sparking safety fears.

The controversial sculpture entitled ‘Phantom’, created by renowned Scottish artist David Mach and situated at Morrisons supermarket on the Esplanade, has been fenced off just three years after it was installed.

The council said the 30 foot tall piece of driftwood, which weighs three tonnes and is covered with around one million nails, is cracked and showing signs of being a “dangerous structure”.

Scott Young, building standards compliance and public safety lead officer, told the Press: “Our team responded to the sculpture being reported as a dangerous structure.

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The sculpture, entitled 'Phantom' and costing £35,000, was installed just three years ago.

“There are signs of cracking and bits have obviously fallen off.

“Given its unusual structural nature and the possibility of more pieces – or larger sections – falling, we’ve set up a temporary exclusion zone to keep people at a safe distance.

“We’re in discussion with planning colleagues and Morrisons to establish who is responsible for further risk assessments and appropriate action.”

The sculpture, once referred to as looking like “whale’s penis” by Kirkcaldy councillor Neil Crooks, has divided public opinion ever since it was chosen.

Pieces of the sculpture are now falling away.

The abstract piece of public art was commissioned by Morrisons supermarket for £35,000 as part of a planning condition for its Kirkcaldy store which opened in 2013.

Consisting of a large tree trunk sized piece of driftwood with tacks and nails covering it, the artist’s intention was to create a sculpture that would change with the sunlight.

The Press revealed back in February 2017 that the sculpture, was in fact “falling to bits” just two years after it was installed.

But now the situation has worsened, with large amounts of nails and rotting wood falling from the sculpture and littering the immediate area.

Fife Council have put fencing up around the art work following concerns for public safety.

Several large holes have now appeared in the piece raising questions over whether it should be pulled down.

That’s certainly the view of Kirkcaldy councillor Neil Crooks.

“It is a monstrosity dressed up as art and an expensive one at that,” the area committee chairman told the Press.

“If it was removed tomorrow I don’t think many people in Kirkcaldy would miss it.

“It’s a shame because when art works well it has a chance to dramatically improve an area. I don’t want to be disrespectful to David Mach who is a respected artist, but my view is that it has failed.

“We have a seafront that has great potential, but I’d prefer to see public art tie in with the town’s heritage – Kirkcaldy has lots to celebrate.

“Because of the concern for the public’s safety with respect to this sculpture, then the council has acted swiftly to cordon off the area and I welcome that.

“I’d be interested to see who now is ultimatley responsible for the piece.”

Morrisons, which commissioned and paid for the sculpture as part of its planning Section 75 planning consent when the store was approved back in 2013, has refused to comment on the issue.