Sculptor chosen for BBC Great Britons
Sculptor Paul de Monchaux has been chosen by
the BBC to create a contemporary memorial to Winston Churchill.
The memorial is the culmination of the BBC TWO series Great
Britons, in which the wartime leader was voted overall winner by BBC
viewers in a poll to find the greatest Briton of all time.
The abstract sculpture, entitled Song, will be unveiled
later this year and will tour the UK before being installed in London
in a BBC building.
The memorial is funded by profits from the telephone
voting for the television series, in which 1.6 million people cast votes
by phone and the internet.
Song is a freestanding timber tower made from 20 interlocking
units of sawn green English oak heartwood.
De Monchaux's inspiration for the shape of the memorial
comes from Churchill's use of the structures of poetry and song in the
preparation of his wartime messages.
Churchill's speech drafts were typed from shorthand
notes in what was known by his office as 'Psalm Style' blocks
of indented text, stepping diagonally down the page and the finished
drafts were known as 'Hymn Sheets'.
The form of the sculpture takes its cue from the visual
structure of the 'Psalm Style' drafts and four facsimiles of these drafts
will be embedded into the top surfaces of the central tier of the memorial.
"I first saw the speech drafts in the archive of
the Imperial War Museum," explains Paul de
Monchaux, "and was struck by Churchill's awareness of the way in
which the shape of the spaces around words can amplify their meaning.
"The text of the drafts descends the page in stepped
blocks which, as they often look as though they might overlap, lead
the mind back from the last phrase in a passage to the first.
"The 'Psalm Style' drafts were the highly structured
scores for his great performances; the rigorous art behind the emotion."
Born in Montreal but resident in the UK since 1955,
de Monchaux's proposal was chosen from a shortlist of five contemporary
artists by a BBC selection panel comprising:
Susan Brades, former director, Hayward Gallery; Richard
Cork, art critic and art historian; Mark Harrison, Creative Director,
BBC Arts; Roly Keating, Controller, BBC TWO; Vivien Lovell, Director,
Modus Operandi art consultants; Jane Root, former Controller, BBC TWO;
and Alan Yentob, Creative Director, BBC.
Mark Harrison, Creative Director, BBC Arts,
and executive producer of the Great Britons series, says: "Paul
de Monchaux was a unanimous choice by the selection panel.
"We were all immediately engaged by Paul's response
to the layout of Churchill's speeches on paper and the way in which
he had translated this into a three dimensional form.
"His evocative choice of English oak and heartwood
resonated with everyone.
"We also felt his idea best met the original brief
of a contemporary memorial which reflected the achievements and personality
of Churchill and was both celebratory and respectful.
"Song will be a worthy addition to the BBC's art
collection and is in the best tradition of the BBC's patronage of the
Winston S Churchill, Churchill's grandson, adds: "I
am delighted to know that as a result of the Great Britons programme
it has been decided to commission this memorial to Winston Churchill,
whose wartime speeches inspired the nation and gave hope to the world
in Europe's darkest hour."
The BBC has a long tradition of supporting the visual
arts, including the commission of Eric Gill to create sculptures for
the façade of BBC Broadcasting House in 1932 and John Piper to
produce a mural for the foyer of Television Centre in 1960.
A programme of public art, including temporary and
permanent works, is part of the BBC's new Media Village at White City
and is an integral part of the redevelopment of BBC Broadcasting House
(both in London).
The commissioning of the Churchill memorial was managed
for the BBC by the art consultants Modus Operandi.
The Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, assisted the
sculptor in his research.
The BBC is grateful to the Churchill Family in granting
Notes to Editors
Biography - Paul de Monchaux
Paul de Monchaux was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1934.
He studied at the Art Students League in New York, USA,
before coming to the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1955.
He was Lecturer in Sculpture at Goldsmiths College
(1960 - 1965) and was also Head of Sculpture & Fine Art at Camberwell
School of Art (1965 - 1986).
He retired from teaching in 1986 to concentrate on his
Public commissions include sculptures for Brunswick
and Oozells Squares in Birmingham; Enclosure for West Park Southampton;
the Wilfred Owen Memorial in Shrewsbury; Basilica for the Crown Court
in Coventry and the four Time benches at Euston station in London.
He won a Civic Trust Award with Townshend Associates
for his work in Oozells Square.
The Great Britons television series ran on BBC TWO from 20 October to
24 November 2002.
The series launched with a public poll for people to
nominate the person they thought was the greatest Briton of all time.
The top 10 (in alphabetical order) then featured in
a 10-part series in autumn 2002 in which high-profile presenters including
Mo Mowlam, Michael Portillo and Jeremy Clarkson argued the case for
their chosen Great Briton and asked viewers to vote by phone or through
All ten Great Britons were debated in a final programme
which then announced the winner.
The series captured the public imagination and generated
much interest and debate.
In total 1.6 million people registered votes and the
final rankings were: 1) Winston Churchill; 2) Isambard Kingdom Brunel;
3) Princess Diana; 4) Charles Darwin; 5) William Shakespeare; 6) Isaac
Newton; 7) Elizabeth I; 8) John Lennon; 9); Lord Nelson; 10) Oliver
The Great Britons memorial
Five contemporary artists were shortlisted to submit proposals for the
No particular medium was stipulated for the commission,
other than that the BBC was not seeking a conventional proposal as it
was felt the UK already had the definitive Churchill figurative sculpture
in Ivor Roberts-Jones' work of 1973 in London's Parliament Square.
The Great Britons memorial is funded by the profits
from the telephone voting up to the final programme.
Profits from the telephone voting in the final programme
were donated to BBC Children In Need.
The total budget for the memorial is £50,000,
which includes materials, construction, installation, touring costs
and the artist's fee.
Modus Operandi Art Consultants
Modus Operandi is an independent art consultancy which provides artistic
direction and a commissioning service to its clients.
It has led the BBC Broadcasting House Public Art Programme
of permanent and temporary commissions.