EXCLUSIVE: The BBC will today begin work to restore a controversial sculpture outside of its London headquarters after it was vandalized by a hammer-wielding protester last year.
The 91-year-old Eric Gill artwork that adorns Broadcasting House depicts Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but it was attacked last year amid calls for it to be removed.
Campaigners demanded action after extracts from Gill’s private diaries, published nearly half a century after his death in 1940, revealed that he sexually abused his daughters.
The BBC declined to cave to the demands, saying it was right to have debates about whether works of art can be divorced from their creators.
It has now begun restoration work, which will likely cost between £10,000 ($12,600) and £20,000 ($25,000). It will be funded by insurance, rather than through the license fee.
Scaffolding will go up around the BBC’s premises today and the work is expected to be completed by expert stonemasons by the end of June.
The BBC said it took advice from Historic England, a government-backed body tasked with protecting historic buildings, before making its decision. It said “additional context” will be provided about the artwork and Gill, which members of the public can access by scanning a QR code.
Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, said: “Gill’s abusive behaviour and lifestyle are well documented and the BBC in no way condones his behaviour. So while it is right that the fabric of the building is restored, we must also ensure people are fully informed about the history connected to it.
“This repair work provides an opportunity to give important context about the art and the artist, as well as the wider significance of the building. The debate about whether you can separate the work of an artist from the art itself remains, I hope we are taking steps to help inform that debate.”