What is it?
The 26-tonne floating artwork was originally commissioned for Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. It was conceived by Richard Groom who made it alongside shipbuilders at the Govan Docks on the banks of the Clyde – the waterway that was central to the city’s industrial past.
The sculpture is inspired by the moai on Easter Island, it’s made of a steel mesh and covered with a cement render. The sculpture bonds Glasgow’s industrial history and materials with the process of art-making.
Over five months from 26th April 1988, Glasgow Garden Festival attracted 4.3 million visitors and was part of the industrial transition that left its mark on Glasgow. As Kate Robertson, the co-director of the SPG, explains: “The Garden Festival marked a turning point for the city from post-industrial to a cultural destination.”
The festival’s original site was a redevelopment of the once booming dry docks that had become a symbol of an industry in permanent decline. Fast forward to 2021, and this site is now home to BBC Scotland and Glasgow Science Centre – a total transformation of architecture and industry. This journey is represented by the restoration of Richard Groom’s monumental structure.
Early in his career, Richard Groom worked at Wallyford Stoneyard and David Lindsay Stone Carvers. He produced hand carved ornaments and supplied carvings for many of Scotland’s finest buildings including Paisley Abbey. His work can also be found in various cities in the UK, Japan and Denmark. As an artist, he was interested in what these skills could offer to more modern sculptural propositions.
Sadly, Richard passed in 2019. Inspired by the outpouring of love at the artist’s funeral, Richard’s brother Andy Groom decided to seek out the sculpture: “So many of Richard’s friends and colleagues commented on all of his work, especially the Floating Head. It became apparent very quickly we had to find it, fix it, float it.”
Who we are …
We at SPG work in the visual arts. We support artists, promote sustainability within the arts and extend the life of sculptures. We partnered with the estate of Richard Groom to relocate the iconic sculpture in the Canting Basin at Govan Docks.
With an official launch later this month, the head will feature at Glasgow Doors Open Days festival, forming part of a sculpture trail through Govan, while we and the Groom estate seek a permanent mooring.
Video: based on footage from Art in the Garden Installations Glasgow Garden Festival 1988. Music: Mort Garson – Plantasia (Homewood Records)