The Joe Orton Statue Appeal has launched a contest for a new £80,000 ‘destination artwork’ celebrating the acclaimed playwright who died more than 50 years ago
The competition will select a ‘memorable and intriguing … artwork of the highest quality’ commemorating the life of the famous playwright who grew up in the city’s Saffron Lane council housing estate and penned several high-profile plays including Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw.
The call for concepts follows a crowdfunding campaign backed by the leading actors Ian McKellen and Alison Steadman and the comedian Stephen Fry. The winning scheme will be installed in Orton Square (pictured) outside the Rafael Viñoly-designed Curve theatre. Proposals may occupy any one of four locations within the square and could be of any scale or medium, but should harness robust, natural and durable materials.
The playwright’s sister Leonie Orton, who is also the administrator of the Joe Orton Estate, said: ‘I hope that the statue will become a memorable and exciting addition to Leicester’s cultural landscape that raises awareness whilst celebrating his life, work and legacy. It is not a “statue” that people should be in awe of, rather something they want to interact with and associate with.’
Singer Holly Johnson, who is on the selection jury, said: ‘Joe Orton challenged hypocrisy with his barbed humour, always swinging the other way in the swinging sixties. It’s an honour to be asked to help select the statue that will commemorate this working-class hero who was an antidote to the stiff upper lip British establishment.’
Orton was born in 1933 in Leicester and grew up on the Saffron Lane estate, spending more than half his life in the city before relocating to London. The ‘self-identified working-class homosexual’ playwright achieved critical acclaim in the mid-1960s but was tragically killed by his partner Kenneth Halliwell in 1967.
Applications should include a covering letter, a written response to the brief, an artist CV, examples of previous relevant work, and a visual concept for the statue.
Applicants will be judged on their accessibility and ability to ‘convey Orton’s subversive spirit.’ Concepts should respond to the surrounding context and not include moving parts, sounds or water. Proposals must be ‘fabricated from hardwearing material which is resistant to the elements, vandalism and theft’.
Twelve longlisted teams will be invited to each create an A1 foam-board to display their design at a public exhibition in the summer. Three shortlisted artists will then each receive an honorarium of £2,000 to produce a model and attend an interview with the selection panel in the autumn.
The winning team will receive £80,000 to cover their fee, materials, fabrication, project management, specialist engineering and transportation.
The deadline for applications is 31 May.