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Poole’s Sea Music Sculpture given the green light from the Heritage Lottery Fund

Borough of Poole Museum Service has been awarded initial support including a £44,600 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in support of its plans to conserve and celebrate Sir Anthony Caro’s Sea Music sculpture on Poole Quay.

Sea Music, which dominates the Quay, was designed and given to Poole by Sir Anthony Caro in 1991. Caro, who died in 2013, is today recognised as one of the most important modern British sculptors.

The sculpture is Caro’s only site-specific public sculpture and was designed to evoke the sound and appearance of the cascading sea through interlocking rings and curves. The central vertical plate recalls the masts and sails of the ships. The sculpture and three viewing platforms have suffered from the elements and are now in need of conservation and repainting before their condition significantly worsens.

Before Caro died, the artist specified some changes to the painting of Sea Music, including changing the colour of the viewing platform metalwork from blue to silver to better distinguish the sculpture from the viewing platform. It is hoped this will be completed in time for Sea Music’s 25th anniversary on 25 November 2016.

The HLF initial support will support the development phase of the project, which will centre on an arts and volunteering programme to celebrate the sculpture. A range of arts events will be staged and volunteers will document and provide interpretation of Sea Music. A major exhibition of Caro's musical sculptures is being planned for Poole Museum, accompanied by a book with newly commissioned photography. 

The Sea Music project is supported by Caro’s estate with the restoration being supervised by his studio in association with the New Art Centre, Roche Court. A number of people who worked on its installation will also be involved.

Councillor Xena Dion, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Local Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund recognises the importance of the Sea Music sculpture to Poole. Sea Music divides, but always stimulates opinions locally. There is no doubting its international importance as a work of sculpture, and its significance as a flagship tourist attraction for Poole Quay.

“The fact that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting the conservation of a recent artwork demonstrates the diversity of the heritage and of the range of types of project that the organisation supports.”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “We’re really pleased to be supporting plans to restore Anthony Caro’s Sea Music sculpture in the heart of Poole’s Quay. It’s an internationally important landmark and this project will not only preserve it but also help people learn about its history, and the story of Anthony Caro himself, whilst adding to Poole’s tourist offer. 

“Poole is a development area for HLF which means we haven’t received as many applications from this area as others across the South West – which is another reason we’re glad to be supporting the Borough of Poole’s Museum Service’s project plans.”

Sir Anthony Caro’s work has recently been the subject of a major exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield, and is featured in major exhibitions and museum displays around the world.