'The Don'Unex

A statue entitled ‘The Don’ by Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry has become a mystery after Atchugarry denied producing the work. The 13 foot-high statue, initially planned for an office development on Hills Road, is worth £150,000, but Cambridge City Council’s public art officer has described it as “possibly the poorest quality work” that has ever been submitted to them.

Speaking to Cambridge News, Atchugarry denied being the “author” of the sculpture, and has called the accusation that it is his work “an abuse”. Atchugarry also added that he is “really astonished, worried and disappointed” that his work is being misrepresented in this way. Atchugarry is an internationally renowned sculptor, who most commonly works in marble, and his pieces have been sold at Christies and Sothebys in London, New York, Paris and Amsterdam.

Unex, the development company which supposedly commissioned Atchugarry to produce the statue for the site, stand by their claim that the statue is his work. A spokesperson for the chairman of Unex and well-known patron of the arts, Bill Gredley, explained the origin of the statue: “Pablo Atchugarry sculpted a model having spent a day in Cambridge researching academic clothing.  He designed a model in marble and thereafter we had the model enlarged and cast by Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry.”

“Mr Gredley and others consider it is a rather spectacular bronze with a difference, namely the head and shape as cast together with the bronze being coloured black to resemble the academic clothing and mortarboard.”

Gredley objects, however, to the council’s off-the-cuff dismissal of the statue, and claims that no-one from the council has visited the statue and have purely judged it from a photograph. However, a council report into the matter concluded that the statue was the work of Atchugarry, but that Unex had overstepped the mark by commissioning an installation without it having been developed “in response to the site”. Unex now plans to put the statue on display elsewhere in the city and invite comments to gauge the public response to the work.

Councillor John Hipkin, reacting to the statue, questioned how ‘The Don’ could be considered unacceptable when compared to the highly abstract £50,000 Snowy Farr memorial sculpture outside the Guildhall in Market Square, which was approved by Nadine Black, the council’s public art officer. 

Jonathan Glancey, an art critic for the Telegraph, has used ‘The Don’ in a recent article as evidence of why “we should reject fast-breeding kitsch in public places.” He also branded the statue as “detritus masquerading as public art”.