While temporarily saved from destruction, the fate of a site-specific work by Mark Dion in Lancaster, England, is in limbo. “The Tasting Garden,” which was created in 1998 in the Storey Gardens and has had a rough few years of theft and decay, may now be relocated entirely. On the website of Lancaster’s defunct Storey Gallery, once situated in the Storey Institute alongside the gardens, they announced:
This artwork was vandalised several years ago. It could easily be restored. Unfortunately a Lancaster City Council officer’s report (21 August 2014) recommends that it is destroyed.
The report they refer to explained that the city council’s preferred option for the “Tasting Garden” was its removal, since the council had “no funds with which to restore the artwork and it is not even clear where external funding could be bid from.” Now, after a cabinet meeting this Tuesday, the Lancaster City Council has offered a new proposal, one that would relocate “The Tasting Garden” rather than destroy it.
When completed in 1998, “The Tasting Garden” had radiating paths like branches that brought visitors to different corners of an orchard where bronze fruits represented the types of specimens you could taste from, as well as an “Arboriculturist’s Workshed” celebrating the history of orchard cultivation. While the site dated back to the 17th century as an orchard, it had long been neglected, and the community project aimed to reimagine it as a new greenspace.
According to Storey Gallery, the gardens “were closed by the Council in 2006, following a drug-use incident,” a closure that continued due to a renovation project on the adjacent building until Storey reopened in 2009. However, during this time the gardens were vandalized and the bronze fruits stolen.
Back in 2009 at the time of the theft, Dion told the Art Newspaper: “I’m not sure what the future plans are for the garden but without the sculptures it wouldn’t have anything to do with me. The local council has no appreciation for this work…they don’t understand that it is a fabric of the city.” There still seems to be a disconnect between people who want to restore this installation by the prominent American artist, and those who want to just get a better greenspace for the city, regardless of if the work is preserved. “If it decides to remove the ‘Tasting Gardens’ Lancaster City Council will have an international reputation as a destroyer of art,” John Angus, formerly of Storey Gallery, told the Lancaster Guardian.
As of this writing, an online petition to restore the “Tasting Garden” had over 770 signatures, and Tate director Nicholas Serota is reportedly also lending his support to the campaign. Yet the ultimate outcome for the “Tasting Garden” will be determined by how its supporters can convey the importance of keeping the work site-specific and in its original place.