Newcastle United Art Forum – The Shearer Statue
Posted on September 14th, 2016 | 150 Comments |
It isn’t very often that I venture off the highway of football to enter the arena of art criticism here on NUFC Blog, but this is one of those occaisions and I am actually more qualified. Having been a figurative artist, a designer and also an art dealer in a very modest sense, I hope I can give a reasonably informed opinion without getting too carried away.
As you might have guessed from the photo accompanying thus piece, my current musing has been inspired by the recent unveiling of the Alan Shearer sculpture. Named ‘Local Hero,’ it is the second by local self-taught sculptor, Tom Maley for Newcastle United. It follows Maley’s Bobby Robson tribute of 2012, though it was actually commissioned by former NUFC Chairman, Freddie Shepherd before that in 2007 at an alleged cost of around £250,000. There is almost certainly some kind of club politics behind the nine year delay in its unveiling but that is not what this story is about.
What it is about is that despite the huge cost, both this and the previous statue of Sir Bobby Robson have been of fairly low artistic merit. You can see this when you look at them in comparison to the earlier sculpture of another Newcastle United legend, Jackie Milburn from 1991. Sculpted by Susannah Robinson, it was commissioned at a cost of only £35,000 and paid for by readers of local newspaper, The Evening Chronicle three years after Milburn’s death. Even if it was done 8 years before the Shearer sculpture, that is a huge difference, especially when the latter ones are of a lower merit.
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Looking at Robinson’s Milburn piece, there’s a correct weight and balance in the body, there is life bursting out of it, a tension between motion and stillness which is missing from the others. One can see that it has been done from a live model, which really does make all the difference. It has real integrity, like Milburn himself. In comparison, Sir Bobby and Alan look more like huge versions of the kind of models you might have seen given away in a cereal packet when England were in the World Cup.
Though Mike Ashley and Freddie Shepherd are hardly renowned as art connoisseurs, ultimately it is the man or woman who pays the piper that calls the tune. My thoughts as I was writing the last sentence turned to Mohammed al Fayed’s statue of Michael Jackson at Fulham, so I suppose that things could be worse! If Mike Ashley has finally realised that he is no football expert and has left it to someone who is at last, I will also hope he realises that both he and Shepherd haven’t been art experts either, and that he brings one in to chose the sculptor who makes the next Newcastle United legend, whoever might be the subject. I wouldn’t bet on it though.
Jerry Springer style, I will offer one final thought on how Newcastle United represents its history. It’s great that one of the finest players in the club’s history has just been honoured, and that Sir Bobby was too. However, NUFC is a club which has over 120 years of history, and won all of its major trophies in other times. For what it’s worth, I think it is time to look beyond the 1990s and 2000s when the club honours its own in future. Milburn represented the 1950s and that was a start, but our most glorious period was undoubtedly way back in the 1900s with Colin Veitch, and the last time we won the League was in 1927 with Hughie Gallacher’s goals, yet the heroes of these older times are barely acknowledged today.