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Forward statue, Centenary Square, Birmingham.

Forward statue

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

The 'Forward' statue was cast in polyester resin, and it represented the march of Birmingham from its smokey industrial past into the future. 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.

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 'Forward' statue was irreparably damaged by fire. It was later removed.

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