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Forward Statue

Forward Copyright Birmingham Picture Library

One of Birmingham's most controversial works of art was unveiled in June 1991 in the centre of the new Centenary Square.

Cast in polyester resin, it represented the march of Birmingham from its smokey industrial past into the future. It was a work of art that repaid close attention. Figures included Joseph Chamberlain with his monocle and Josiah Mason, founder of the University, with an armful of books. The Lady of the Arts, from the city's coat of arms, blew a kiss to the past, while an actress curtsied to the Repertory Theatre.

Statue damaged by fire

The formula on the shoulder of the leading figure referred to DNA, representing the continuing advance of scientific discovery. The Birmingham-educated scientist, Maurice Wilkins, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for work on DNA.

The sculptor was the late Raymond Mason, one of Birmingham's most famous artists. Surprisingly, this was the first home commission for an artist with work in Canada, the United States and France.

Unfortunately, at lunchtime on 17 April 2003, the statue was irreparably damaged, by fire. It was later removed.