Sunday 2 May 2010

DDDA sculpture left high and dry

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), which recorded a deficit of €213m last year, has spent hundreds of thousands of euros on developing a landmark sculpture in the Liffey that has now been postponed indefinitely.

Wire Man by Antony Gormley, the British sculptor, is a 46-metre steel sculpture that was supposed to be located in the river. However, it has now been shelved due to “the financial challenges faced by the authority”, the DDDA admitted last week.

But files released under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than €340,000 has already been spent on the project, which was granted planning permission following an appeal early last year. The total budget for the project is estimated at about €1.6m.

The project may never be completed due to the parlous state of the DDDA’s finances.

The proposed towering sculpture, modelled on London-born Gormley’s own body, was to have been situated beside the Sean O’Casey Bridge overlooking Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre.

Gormley, who designed the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead, England, has been paid €54,110 to date for developing his idea of a steel lattice figure that would have towered over the city.

The DDDA also spent €80,200 on a competition to select a sculptor from a shortlist of eight candidates, eventually won by Gormley. The agency spent a further €172,418 bringing the project through the planning process and a total of €36,054 on “public consultation”.

A spokesman said last week that the planning costs were exacerbated by an appeal to An Bord Pleanala and the need for an environmental impact statement. The planning costs included fees for consultants, engineers, architects and geologists. The public consultation costs, according to the DDDA, included marketing and promotional expenses.

In May last year, Gormley texted Paul Maloney, the then chief executive of the DDDA, to express his frustration at delays in the project. Maloney replied by email, assuring Gormley that the DDDA “remains committed to the delivery of this project” but said the authority was facing “extremely serious financial challenges in light of the collapse of international financial and property markets”.

Maloney continued that the DDDA would investigate and take up any offers of assistance in funding the project. “For the next six months, it will be a priority of ours . . . to secure any support for the project so that we can proceed in January 2010,” he said.

Despite this assurance, the DDDA admitted this weekend that the project was not “being progressed”.

Gormley told The Sunday Times last year that “the international art world was watching Dublin and it would be foolish not to go ahead with the project”. He said that he had been assured by the DDDA that the €1.6m set aside for the project had been “ring-fenced”.

“I would be surprised and disappointed if the project didn’t go ahead as planned,” he said at the time.

In June 2008, just as its finances were unravelling, the agency spent €170,218 on an installation by Spencer Tunick, a photographer who takes images of nude groups.

The installation took place over a weekend in June 2008. Tunick was paid €31,768 and €13,574 was spent on project management. Some 25,000 volunteers posed naked on the South Wall harbour in the Dublin docklands.

The production costs for the event, and a subsequent photo shoot at a nearby apartment building, cost €49,381, while a marketing campaign to highlight the event — including a website — cost another €75,493. The overall spend included the cost of sending each volunteer a limited-edition photograph. Earlier in the month, Tunick had created another installation, in Blarney Castle, in Co Cork, featuring 1,200 volunteers, including Ray D’Arcy, a Today FM DJ. The cost was met by the organisers of Cork Midsummer Festival.

William Galinsky, the festival director, said Tunick charged the same fee as for the DDDA project. There were also costs of just under €32,000, but marketing expenses were lower because it was part of a festival and production costs were lower because the site was easier to work on than in Dublin.

Sunday Times

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