news

Mystery over the fate of Bull Ring bulls from 1960s

The hunt is on for artworks which have disappeared

Bull Ring Shopping Centre, Birmingham, 10th June 1964.

They once stood guard at Birmingham’s famous 1960s Bull Ring shopping centre – but now they’ve vanished.

Artist Trewin Copplestone designed the set of four, two-metre high fibreglass bulls for the side of the Bull Ring shopping centre, built in 1963.

The artworks will have been familiar to the millions who passed through the Bull Ring before it was demolished over a decade ago – but their current whereabouts are a mystery.

Historic England, formerly English Heritage, has now launched a campaign to track them down.

They’re certainly not easy to hide – each sculpture was cast in a single piece from a polystyrene mould onto a metal frame and weighed nine tonnes

One of them was damaged by fire in 1983 but was later restored.

Tamsin Silvey, exhibitions manager at Historic England, said: “The bull forms set the Bull Ring apart from other shopping centres back in the 1960s.

“Backlit and standing proud at the top of the shopping centre, they became a landmark, a modernist emblem for the city centre as well as symbol for the determination of new Birmingham.

“We know the bulls were taken down when the shopping centre was rebuilt and were said to be put in storage and since then they’ve disappeared.

The Bull Ring shopping centre in Birmingham, showing one of the bull sculptures on the exterior of the building in 1991.(Image: Mirrorpix)

“We want to tell the story of these public art works and would love the public to come forward with any information they might have now on the bulls.

“Let’s bring them back into the spotlight.”

Historic England has warned that England’s post-war public art, created by some of the most important artists of the 20th century, is “disappearing before the public’s eyes”.

The group is concerned a growing number of sculptures, architectural friezes and murals – made between the Second World War and the mid-1980s – have been destroyed, sold, lost or stolen.

It says England has lost a worrying amount of artwork from the streets, housing estates, work places, shopping centres and schools for which the pieces were designed.

Although many of the works have been destroyed completely, some could still be out there and Historic England is issuing a call for information, evidence and photographs from the public to help track them down for a major exhibition at Somerset House in London, as part of its Utopia Season.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Part of England’s national collection of public artworks is disappearing before our eyes.

“Historic England’s research is only the tip of the iceberg as it’s almost impossible to trace what has happened to every piece of public art since 1945.

“This art work was commissioned and created for everyone to enjoy, and it should remain accessible to all.

“We’re making efforts to protect the best examples of post-war public art that still exist and make sure that it continues to enhance the public realm.”

* Historic England has now compiled a list of public works that have been lost, sold, stolen or destroyed which can be found www.historicengland.org.uk/missingpublicart

View full mobile page