This relief was originally designed for Henry Wiggin Co. Ltd., manufacturer of speciality metal products, notably the Nimonic alloys which were used in Sir Frank Whittle's first jet engine, and in other high strength/temperature alloys for the aerospace industry, including Concorde. The relief was Paolozzi's second major essay in the medium of sculptural bas-relief, after the first series of magisterial reliefs which had been commissioned by Michael Spens for Cleish Castle, Kinross, Scotland (1972-73), the ceiling panels for which are now installed in the central exhibition space of the Dean Gallery, Edinburgh. The 'Wiggin Relief' Niigata Turkoma also marks the debut of its maker Ray Watson (1940-2000), Paolozzi's supremely talented craftsman and model maker, who became the sculptor's principal assistant and lifelong collaborator.
The commissioning of the relief originated with the Consultant Designers Fetherstonhaugh Associates, London, for Ray Watson had known Michael Fetherstonhaugh before he began working for Paolozzi in November 1974. The relief was intended for the Wiggin VIP dining and conference room in their Holmer Road headquarters in Hereford. On 4 December 1974 Wiggin agreed to supply their 'metal and craftsmen to carry out the design' of a bas-relief; in exchange for which Paolozzi agreed to make two reliefs, one for the Wiggin dining room and one for himself, 'at no charge except expenses'. There was probably little or no input for either Wiggin metals or craftsmen, because by March 1975 Watson had completed a virtuosic half-scale model of the relief in wood in three sections; and made a second model in wood at a reduced scale. By June the full-size master in wood was ready and priced for resin mouldings to be cast by Derek and Patricia Freeborn Limited, East Horsley, Surrey, at a cost of £1,200. The present plaster and wood relief was completed by 30 January 1976, but for reasons which are not clear, it was never installed in Hereford, and the present management has no record of it.
Instead, the full-scale master in wood was exhibited with the title Niigata Turkoma in Eduardo Paolozzi New Reliefs and Sculpture at the Marlborough Gallery, London, in January 1976, together with related works in bronze, wood and resin; and later that summer in the Fruitmarket Gallery of Edinburgh. Paolozzi appears to have retained this full-scale relief, and had two further casts made of it in 1976. The present work was given to the distinguished architect, Sir Denys Lasdun, C.H., a friend and collaborator of the artist, circa 1978. Paolozzi presented a reduced-scale wood version of Niigata Turkoma to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1998.
The title Niigata Turkoma is a reference to the Turkish immigrant community of West Berlin. When Paolozzi made the relief he was living for a year in the Kreuzberg district of the city, and using a disused clothing factory as a studio, which had been provided for him by the German government under the DAAD artists' scholarship scheme. Early in 1975 both the Nationalgalerie and Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin held major retrospective exhibitions of his work. A number of the prints Paolozzi made at this time - such as the series Kottbusserdam Pictures and Turkish Music - were also intended to reflect and evoke the contrasting language, sounds and music of Turkish culture, which he experienced during his residence in Berlin, and which, after Paris, he always spoke of as being the most creative and productive period of his career.
We are very grateful to Robin Spencer for providing the catalogue entry for this lot.