The Headington Shark
The shark first appeared on 9 August 1986. Bill Heine, a local radio presenter who still owns the house, has said "The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation... It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki". The sculpture, which is reported to weigh 4 long hundredweight (200 kg) and is 25 feet (7.6 m) long, and is made of painted fibreglass, is named Untitled 1986 (written on the gate of the house). The sculpture was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. It was designed by sculptor John Buckley and constructed by Anton Castiau a local carpenter and friend of John Buckley. For the occasion of the shark's 21st anniversary in August 2007, it was renovated by the sculptor, following earlier complaints about the condition of the sculpture and the house.
The work thus falls in the category of bold, pacifist, non-obstructive to daily life conceptual art (to be interpreted as protest by reflective minds) against the present Nuclear Age which pushed the limits of authorities across Europe in the 1980s: its presence highlights that a fear of use of nuclear bases, submarines and weaponry remains, during the perestroika (reform) and increased glasnost (transparency) of the 1980s and even since then following the toppling of the former Soviet Union. In a sense the shark portrays a beautiful but potentially lethal missile.
Created by sculptor John Buckley, the shark was controversial when it first appeared. Oxford City Council tried to have it taken down on grounds of safety, and then on the ground that it had not given planning permission for the shark, offering to host it at the local swimming pool instead, but there was much local support for the shark. Eventually the matter was taken to the central government, where Tony Baldry, a minister in the Department of the Environment, who assessed the case on planning grounds, ruled in 1992 that the shark would be allowed to remain as it did not result in harm to the visual amenity.
In 2002, the unexpected shark appeared in a newspaper advertising campaign for a new financial advice service offered by Freeserve. The advert, designed by M&C Saatchi, featured a photograph of the house with the caption "Freedom to find the mortgage that's right for you".
In 2013, the sculpture was the subject of an April Fools' Day story in the Oxford Mail, which announced the establishment of a fictitious £200,000 fund by Oxford City Council to support the creation of similar sculptures on the roofs of other homes in the area.
- Cardiff Kook
- The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark-based artwork by Damien Hirst (1991)
- "Shark comes of age". Oxford Mail. 8 August 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
- "The Headington Shark". Oxford History. 10 October 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- "In praise of... the Headington shark". The Guardian. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
- "Shabby shark house angers residents". Oxford Times. 12 December 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2010.[dead link]
- Purves, Libby (9 August 2007). "Let's salute fibreglass fish and wacky artists". The Times. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
- MacKinnon, Ian (22 May 1992). "Officials reprieve shark for Art's sake". The Independent. p. 2.
- "Shark adds bite to advert". Oxford Mail. 14 November 2002.
- Jennings, Tom (1 April 2013). "Shark 's tale is given £200k of added bite". The Oxford Mail.
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