Guest Article – Tŷ Pawb “Welcome to Terracottapolis
Wrexham’s considerable contribution to the story of brick, tile and terracotta manufacture forms the foundation for this exhibition.
From mid-19th Century up to as late as 2008, Wrexham was known world-wide for its manufacture and international distribution of bricks, tiles and terracotta products. Nicknamed ‘Terracottapolis’, Wrexham produced distinctively red bricks and decorative tiles that have been used extensively in some of the grandest buildings across the British Isles.
The exhibition will utilise artefacts from Wrexham Museum’s collection. These items will be accompanied and complemented by contemporary works of art from local practitioners.
The Brick Man comes to Wrexham
A highlight of the exhibition will be The Brick Man by Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead.
The Brick Man is a 6ft model for a proposed 120ft tall sculpture that was selected from a competition for an inner-city site at the Holbeck Triangle near Leeds City Station in the late 1980s. The full-scale sculpture was never realised after it ran into objections from city planners. The model and archive for the project in the collection of Leeds Museums and Galleries are now all that remains.
Accompanying the model will be archive material from the planning stages of the sculpture. This includes letters and press cuttings that offer a fascinating insight into the public reaction and conversations that took place around the original proposals.
The loan of The Brick Man from Leeds Museums & Galleries is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.
THE BRICK MAN (MODEL), 1987
Terracotta, fibreglass and plaster
196 x 50 x 38 cm
Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, England
© the artist
Wal Pawb artist to feature
The exhibition also acts as a partner to Lydia Meehan’s Wal Pawb commission which launched in 2020.
Wal Pawb is a biennial commission of six artworks to be displayed across two Tri-Vision billboards within Tŷ Pawb.
Wrexham’s prolific tile and terracotta industry formed the visual and conceptual basis for Lydia Meehan’s publication, titled ‘Everybody’s Wall and Other Meeting Points’.
Celebrating Wrexham’s industrial heritage
Cllr Hugh Jones, Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, said: “The manufacturing of bricks, tiles and terracotta was once a major part of Wrexham’s industry, with products being shipped for construction projects all over the UK.
“Famous names such as Dennis of Ruabon are still recognised across the country and fondly remembered by many local people.
“Tales From Terracottapolis will celebrate this story, weaving original local artefacts together with contemporary artworks. I hope the exhibition will be enjoyed by many who were part of this industry and that it will also help us introduce a brand new audience to Wrexham’s rich industrial and manufacturing heritage.”
Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “One of the key aims of the Weston Loan Programme is to help museums tell compelling stories through exciting loans that have relevance to local heritage, so we are delighted to support the display of Antony Gormley’s The Brick Man in Wrexham.”
Plan your visit
- Tales from Terracottapolis will be on show from 19th March – 11th June.
- Gallery opening times: 10am-4pm, Monday-Saturday.
- Join us for the opening event on 6pm on Friday 18th March.
Tales From Terracottapolis is a partnership project between Tŷ Pawb and Wrexham Museum and Archives
The exhibition is supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Wrexham County Borough Council, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Henry Moore Institute’s Archive of Sculptors Papers, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund.
Lead image: Local strata, Lesley James 2021