Green light for Browne artwork

A controversial piece of contemporary art was yesterday approved by Norwich city councillors.

A controversial piece of contemporary art was yesterday approved by Norwich city councillors.

The £200,000 Homage to Sir Thomas Browne, by internationally recognised artists Anne and Patrick Poirier, has been tipped to change the face of the city's Hay Hill.

Six councillors on the planning committee voted for the application while two abstained. Four others declared an interest and left the room.

It will be the first British commission for the Poiriers, who were selected because of their proven track record and artistic approach.

They have worked around the world and are in constant demand for commissions.

Brenda Ferris, executive member for culture, tourism and leisure, said: "I am delighted. This is a real coup for Norwich and the council and will suit the rich cultural heritage of our city.

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"This contemporary piece will fit well alongside our other works of public art and buildings like the Forum and City Hall."

In 2002, the Arts Council offered funding to the Forum Trust to commission a permanent art piece for the Millennium building.

When it was decided the Forum could not make use of the opportunity, the Arts Council offered the money to Norwich City Council.

Homage to Thomas Browne is made up of 20 sculptures and 22 lights and the pieces are organised on a grid called the quinconce, which was discovered by physician, philosopher, botanist and writer Thomas Browne, who was born in 1605.

Although invisible, it is part of the artwork as he believed that it existed everywhere in nature.

The centrepieces are a classically sculpted marble brain and eye, referring to Sir Thomas's approach to philosophy, religion and science, also forming a diagonal path through the quinconce between his home in Orford Yard and St Peter Mancroft where he is buried.

Around the brain and eye are seats, benches, tables and stools made from granite. A risk assessment has been carried out and the stones will be illuminated at night by subtle uplighters that are part of the artwork.

Once the sculpture is in place and there are more places for people to sit in Hay Hill, the council intends to encourage its use as a small-scale venue for performance, lunchtime readings and other events.

Opponents suggested the sculptures should be moved to Chapelfield Gardens or in front of the Assembly Rooms.

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