List Entry Summary
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
Name: Platforms Piece
List entry Number: 1438640
Brixton Railway Station, Atlantic Road, Brixton, London, SW9 8JB
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District Type: London Borough
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 18-Oct-2016
Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Building
Platforms Piece, a three-figure sculptural group, 1986, by Kevin Atherton.
Reasons for Designation
Platforms Piece, a public sculpture of 1985-6, by Kevin Atherton, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: believed to be the first sculptural representation of British black people in England in a public art context, created for Brixton which is synonymous with the historical development of black British culture in the post-war period; * Cultural importance: a celebration of the cultural identity of Brixton, home to a significant Afro-Caribbean community in post-war Britain, and commissioned following a period of unrest; * Artistic interest: life-size, life-like renderings of local people, richly detailed and textural, with clothing and materials assuming an unusual quality in cast bronze; * Group value: the artworks stand opposite the Brixton Recreation Centre, (separately assessed for listing) a social and cultural hub for the locality, and look across to the swimming pool which is on that level across the road.
The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.
A piece was commissioned for Brixton railway station by British Rail, at the suggestion of, and with advice from, the Public Art Development Trust in 1985. The sculpture was intended to serve as a focal point to the £1m Brixton Station Improvement Scheme, a collaboration between British Rail, the London Borough of Lambeth and the Department of the Environment. Artist Kevin Atherton pitched an idea for a sculptural group of three figures to a selection panel, including the noted architect and designer, Sir Hugh Casson. Atherton was interested in the fleeting interactions of urban life, and his life-size figures, positioned in a straight line across three platforms, played with the notion of fixed points in the fast-paced, transitory station environment. Atherton was concerned that his three figures represent the real inhabitants of Brixton, and took much time seeking the right models. The three he chose were Peter Lloyd, Joy Battick and Karin Heistermann, each of whom had a particular connection to Brixton. An old ticket office on the station platform was converted into a studio for use by Atherton to make plaster moulds of his three volunteers, which were cast in bronze using the 'lost wax' process. Local residents and schools were invited to watch the sculptor at work and in addition there was an accompanying exhibition at the Brixton Recreation Centre, opposite the station. A and A Sculpture Casting produced the pieces.
The sculptures were unveiled by Sir Hugh Casson on 30th June 1986 upon the completion of the station's renovation. Platforms Piece is believed to be the first sculptural representation of black British people in the United Kingdom. It was the winner of the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts Industry Year award for the best commission in any medium in 1986.
Brixton in the 1980s was one of the most densely-populated and economically-deprived parts of London. It became a popular area for West Indian, particularly Jamaican, immigrants to settle in the 1950s, attracted by the cheap housing in the once salubrious, but increasingly down-at-heel, Blitz-damaged, neighbourhood. Tensions peaked in the 1980s, when housing needs were acute, crime and unemployment were high, and the recession had further depressed the socio-economic status of the area. Riots, most notably in 1981 and 1985, were a manifestation of the deep rift between a deprived minority community and the establishment, particularly the Metropolitan Police, who in the Scarman Report on the 1981 were criticised for disproportionately targeting black people in 'stop-and-search' exercises in Brixton. In Platforms Piece Atherton saw the bronze finish of the figures as a unifying quality, for the skin colour of the subjects had no bearing on their depiction.
Dr Kevin Atherton, born in 1950, studied at the Isle of Man College of Art from 1968-69, at Leeds Polytechnic from 1969-72 and achieved a PhD at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, in 2010. He is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in sculpture, performance and film, amongst other mediums. He has had a lengthy teaching career, is a widely-published theoretician, and has acted as an adviser to a number of bodies, including the Fine Art Board and the Arts Council England. Atherton has been commissioned for a number of public sculptural works in the UK, the first of which, ‘A Body of work’ for Langdon Park School, was in 1982.
Platforms Piece, a three-figure sculptural group, 1986, by Kevin Atherton.
MATERIALS: bronze, cast using the lost wax technique.
PLAN: the figures are positioned on separate platforms toward the west end of Brixton Railway Station; they stand in a line at right-angles to the tracks.
DESCRIPTION: the life-size figures stand on the platforms as if waiting for trains. On the London Victoria-bound platform, a casually dressed black man stands at the back of the platform leaning against a wall, with his bag next to him on the platform. Opposite, near the edge of the Orpington-bound platform is a white woman holding a shopping bag in her left hand. Standing on the third platform, facing the Brixton Recreation Centre, her back to the previous figure, is a black woman with her sports bag on the platform at her side.
Books and journals
Bird, Edmund, Price, Fiona, Lambeth Architecture 1965-99, (2015), 180
LUX, Collection / Artists / Kevin Atherton, accessed 10/08/2016 from http://lux.org.uk/collection/artists/kevin-atherton
Max Macbride, Brixton Blog, ‘The never-ending commute – the story of Brixton’s station statues’, 26/08/2013, accessed 08/08/2016 from http://www.brixtonblog.com/the-never-ending-commute-the-story-of-brixtons-station-statues/14281
Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Platform Piece, Brixton Railway Station, Station Rd, accessed 08/08/2016 from http://pmsa.org.uk/pmsa-database/989/
National Grid Reference: TQ3112675468, TQ3113275479, TQ3113575485
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End of official listing