Giant 'Floating Head' sculpture floated up the Clyde to go on public display more than 30 years after being built

A 27-tonne concrete and steel Floating Head sculpture has been floated up the Clyde to be put back on public display – 33 years after it was created.

The dramatic sculpture was created for the 1988 Glasgow Garden Exhibition by artist Richard Groom, and was built with the help of out-of-work shipbuilders.

At more than seven metres long its stoic, expressionless appearance and enormous size make it appear like an archaeological relic of an ancient lost civilization.

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The Floating Head lay largely forgotten for many years at Rothesay Dock East on the north banks of the river Clyde but was tracked down in 2019 after the artist’s death.

After it was re-discovered, workers from Concrete Repairs Ltd began partially restoring and conserving it in a project led by Sculpture Placement Group (SPG) and Richard Groom’s estate.

Andy Groom, the artist’s brother, said: “Myself and my family were so touched at Richard’s funeral where so many of his friends and colleagues commented on all of his work, especially the floating head.

"It became apparent very quickly we had to find it, fix it, float it. We couldn’t believe our luck when we found and met with Offshore Workboats who had rescued it.

“We then tracked down and met Ian Henderson, the owner of the head, who has allowed us the opportunity to display the head again for the public to see.

The Floating Head sculpture from the Glasgow Garden Festival is to be refloated after a crowdfunding campaign. (Picture credit: Ross Crae)

"We’re really grateful to all of them, and everyone else, who has made it possible for us to have the sculpture restored and returned to the heart of Glasgow.”

The conservation work has deliberately been done to ensure that the age of the sculpture remains clear, as a representation of how nature encroaches on man-made objects.

A crowdfunding campaign run by SPG and the family helped cover the costs of the restoration.

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Andy Groom, brother of sculptor Richard, with the Floating Head sculpture in the boat yard in Clydebank. (Picture credit: Ross Crae)

Michelle Emery-Barker, SPG Co-Director, said: “People have very fond memories of the garden festival, and a huge attachment to Glasgow’s heritage as a world-centre of shipbuilding, so we’re really pleased to have the sculpture floating on the Clyde once again.

“It’s an astonishing story – an artwork that was nearly destroyed being rediscovered after decades, restored by the boat-builders of today, and then towed back up the river and proudly put back on public display.

“We think it will really resonate with people, and hopefully be quite an attraction for Doors Open Day.”

Gemma Wild, Heritage Outreach Manager of Glasgow Heritage Trust, said: “Glasgow City Heritage Trust was delighted to be able to support this project via a Heritage Grant.

An image of the Floating Head sculpture in 1988.

“The Garden Festival of 1988 holds a special place in the memories of many Glasgwegians and marked a turning point in Glasgow’s transformation from industrial powerhouse to cultural centre.

“The refloating of Richard Groom’s sculpture and the accompanying programme of workshops with Glasgow Science Centre offers an exciting opportunity to engage Glasgow’s communities with the legacy of the Garden Festival and Glasgow’s shipbuilding heritage.”

The Floating Head will be moored in the Canting Basin at Govan Dicks from now until October 6 and will form a centrepiece of Glasgow Doors Open day.

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The Floating Head under restoration by workers from Concrete Repairs Ltd.
Restoration work being down to restore the Floating Head more than 33 years after it was originally built.

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