In Aldeburgh you will find perhaps the most controversial artwork in Suffolk – Maggi Hambling’s Scallop. Situated on the beach a short walk from the centre of the town, you will see the piece which is constructed of two giant stainless steel scallop shells which interlock to form the sculpture.
Standing at 15 feet high, it is unquestionably an impressive piece and people are encouraged not simply to stand and admire it from afar but to interact with the piece. Afterall, how many pieces of artwork are you allowed to sit on these days?
Unveiled in 2003, the sculpture was met with mixed opinions. While an iconic sight to Aldeburgh as well as the county of Suffolk itself, many local residents did not approve of the piece – stating it spoilt the beach. It has been vandalised 13 times and numerous petitions have been made both for its removal from the beach as well as the sculpture’s retention.
The Scallop has not only attracted controversy locally as it was the winner of the Marsh Award back in 2006 for the best public sculpture in Britain, however only last year it was listed among one of “six worst works of public art” by leading art critic Jonathan Jones.
Hambling intended for the piece to be a dedicated to Benjamin Britten, saying the Scallop needed to be positioned on the wild, windswept coastline which inspired him. The composer lived in Aldeburgh and he is buried in the churchyard of Aldeburgh Parish Church. The Scallop is pierced with a quote from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”. The opera takes its name from a figure in George Crabbe’s collection of poems The Borough. Britten identified with the tragic story of the Aldeburgh fisherman and was immediately inspired stating he knew “that I must write an opera, and where I belonged”.
Pay a visit to Aldeburgh and stroll along the beach to see this interesting artwork. An eyesore or a tribute – you decide.