The artist who regrettably proved that forward thinking can lead to backward behaviour has died.

Raymond Mason, a distinguished sculptor, is remembered in Birmingham for his controversial 1991 work, ‘Forward!’, a £200,000 fibre-glass statue which stood for a time in Centenary Square.

He died in Paris on February 13, aged 88.

Many locals took pride in the distinctive cream-coloured work, which became known locally as the Lurpak sculpture because it appeared to be carved out of butter.

It was supposed to represent the city’s early 1990s renaissance, but in 2003 it was burned to the ground, a wanton act of vandalism by teenagers who showed little appreciation for the art of optimism and inner city regeneration.

Mason trained at the Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts, the Royal College of Art and the Slade School of Art.

From 1946, he lived and worked in Paris.

Mason is best remembered for his style of tightly packing figures together.

His works went on display at McGill College Avenue in Montreal; the Tuileries, Paris; Georgetown, Washington, DC and New York’s Madison Avenue.

He was also a close friend of the late Nobel Prize winning scientist, Maurice Wilkins, who went to school in Birmingham and worked at the city’s University, where he made important breakthroughs in the study of DNA.

Forward! carried a reference to DNA - a homage to his good friend.

Whether it was admired or lampooned, Forward! quickly took on an iconic status within the city of Birmingham, and beyond, which made its fiery demise even more shocking.

Claire Jepson Homer, who was working at the nearby Birmingham Rep Theatre, said at the time: “The statue suddenly turned into a big cloud of smoke. It was quite a sight really.”