U-Turn on Lancaster garden artwork

The work of a renowned American artist in a Lancaster public garden could be restored after all.

Supporters have been given 12 months to raise an estimated £20,000 cash to regenerate Mark Dion’s Tasting Garden at The Storey Centre.

Councillors did a U-turn at a meeting, agreeing to help the Friends of the Storey Gardens find the funding.

The Lancaster City Council cabinet had earlier said restoration was “unrealistic”.

They were urged to change their minds by the council’s own overview and scrutiny committee, which monitors and can question council decisions.

The funding will include project management of the restoration of the artwork, which has been vandalised and stolen, plus insurance and maintenance costs to minimise liability on the council.

Coun Richard Newman-Thompson, cabinet member for finance, said: “This is a significant and important piece of artwork and it would be a coup to have it back.”

Supporters of restoration include Sir Nicholas Serota, director of London’s Tate Gallery.

The Cabinet decision on Tuesday night was unanimous.

They resolved that “restoration of the artwork is not a high priority for the council, but nevertheless a minimal amount of officer time will be provided to clarify the governance issues necessary to enable the Friends group to apply for major grant funding to restore the artwork as the lead partner with the council”.

If the money can’t be found, the council will revert to its original idea of improving the gardens without restoring the artwork.

The Tasting Gardens had been earmarked for removal after suffering vandalism and falling into disrepair.

Members of the Friends of the Storey Gardens were split on whether to back plans to remove the dilapidated piece of art.

The artwork was originally four paths forming branches of a tree, each leading to a bronze sculpture of a fruit on a plinth. But the metal fruits – an apple, cherry, plum and a pear – were stolen several years ago.

Mark Dion was commissioned in 1998 as part of ArtTransPennine 98, a collaboration between Tate Liverpool and the Henry Moore Trust to exhibit 40 artworks at sites from Liverpool to Hull. The artwork was open to the public from 1998 until the Storey shut temporarily in 2006.