The Tate, MOMA New York - and Derry dump

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A famous sculpture is to be moved to a new permanent location in Derry after it was left sitting close to the city’s main dump.

‘Judo Players’, by celebrated Irish-born sculptor FE McWilliam, was spotted last week in a corner of the Derry City Council depot at Pennyburn Industrial Estate.

Other works by the sculptor are in the Tate in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A member of the public contacted the Journal after noticing the artwork “sitting in the corner of the yard just yards from the dump”.

“I know F.E. McWilliam’s work and, when I saw ‘Judo Players’ lying abandoned in the Council yard I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

“It’s disgraceful that an important piece of art by an internationally-renowed figure should be neglected in such a way. How long has it been lying there? Who made the decision to leave it there?

“I continually hear Council banging on about City of Culture and here we have the very same people abandoning a very important cultural artefact next door to the city dump. City of Culture? What a laugh.”

Derry’s Town Clerk and Chief Executive, Sharon O’Connor, said she was “very concerned to learn of the issues raised by the public in relation to the ‘Judo Players’ sculpture”. She said she immediately requested a “more suitable temporary storage location for this symbolic art piece”.

Ms O’Connor added that priority would be given to assessing the sculpture and its refurbishment requirements.

She also assured the public that the artwork would be relocated to a new permanent location at the North West Sports Campus of Excellence - earmarked for St Columb’s Park - which, she said, would be a “fitting permanent location for such an iconic public art piece”.

Frederick Edward McWilliam, who was born in Banbridge in 1909, was a contemporary and friend of Henry Moore and made his name in London where he established his reputation as one of the most important sculptors of his generation.

Another iconic example of his work, the ‘Princess Macha’ sculpture, is located at the entrance to Altnagelvin Hospital.

Both Derry sculptures were loaned out to Banbridge Council in 2008 for a major exhibition of McWilliam’s work.

A purpose-built FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio celebrating the artist’s life and work is open to the public in Banbridge.

The ‘Judo Players’ controversy follows last week’s revelation that another iconic sculpture in Derry was demolished to make way for a car park.

The ‘Journal revealed that the ‘City People’ sculpture - another focal point of Foyle Street Urban Park which was bulldozed in the mid-1990s - was not only torn down but that no effort was made to preserve it.

The internationally acclaimed artist behind the work, Joan Walsh-Smith, branded its demolition a “stupenduous act of cultural vandalism.”

Derry City Council described the demolition as “unfortunate.”