Architects' impression of the Forum Project.

International artist chosen for iconic Forum Project

Internationally-renowned glass artist Alexander Beleschenko has been commissioned to produce a stunning work for the University of Exeter’s new Forum Project.

The Swansea-based artist was selected from a high calibre short-list of six to win the Commission from the University. 

He will now work with leading architects Wilkinson Eyre to create a unique piece of architectural glasswork to be included in the £48 million Forum Project. The Forum will be a new centrepiece for the heart of the University’s Streatham Campus. It will combine glass and a grid shell roof to create an iconic building.

The Commission is particularly significant for Alexander whose first studio was above a garage in the city.

“I’m thrilled,” he said. “In a sense I’m coming back to Exeter because I started my stained glass career here.”

Alexander’s impressive portfolio includes a floor piece for the Welsh Assembly Building, sculptures at the Met Office in Exeter and a glass and steel bridge for Millennium Place in Coventry. He created a glass screen for the British Embassy in Moscow and has completed commissions in Germany, Austria and the US. When he started his career in Devon, Alexander took on the role of artist-in-school at Vincent Thompson School (now St Luke’s Science and Sports College) and Ottery St Mary School. As his reputation grew he would create sample panels in his Exeter workshop and show them to galleries in London.

Alexander will visit the University over the coming months to gain the inspiration for his new work.

“My piece will have a story and the story centres around Exeter and the University,” Alexander continued. “It could be drawn from the wonderful botanical gardens, the students or the research – I don’t know yet, but that story is drawn into the piece.”

The six final artists vying for the commission each gave a presentation of their ideas to a panel from the University. This process was organised by art consultants Modus Operandi, who have been appointed by the University to advise on all aspects of the integration of art within the Forum and they started their role by researching a long-list of artists, writing a brief, and advising the Panel on selection.

Professor Helen Taylor, University of Exeter Arts and Culture Development Fellow said: “We had an excellent short-list of artists and choosing one was very difficult.”

“What we particularly liked about Alexander’s presentation was his vision of internationalisation and architectural boldness which responded to the ambitious and innovative design for the Forum, and captured its aspirations and spirit.

“We are very excited to see what he will produce,” she added. “The University and surrounding area offer wonderful spaces for study and work so we are confident he will find plenty to inspire him.”

Vivien Lovell, Director of Modus Operandi Art Consultants said: “We are delighted that Alexander has been appointed for this prestigious commission. He excels at integrating his work within architecture yet enabling it to retain its own integrity, and as a highly experienced collaborator we anticipate his influence could extend beyond glass into other areas of the Forum. Having originally trained in painting, he brings  his sensibility for colour, tone and texture to his glass artworks. The next stage is crucial, as his research on campus will generate the concept behind his initial and final designs”.

Construction work on the £48m Forum Project will start in January 2010. It will take around two years to complete. It is part of a wider £450 million investment by the University of Exeter and its partners by the end of the next decade. Of that £270 million will be invested over the next three years. Other projects include an expansion to the Business School, world-class facilities for Biosciences and new student accommodation.

Date: 15 September 2009

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