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Our statues part 2 - the restoration

Graham Sutherland, our Head of Production, has documented one of the key parts of our Building Redevelopment – the Citizens Theatre’s famous statues, which have been carefully restored as part of the project. 

The sculptures have suffered over the years and required substantial restorationIn Part 2 of our statues series, Graham shares the work of Scottish sculptor and painter David J Mitchell, who has restored the statues:

After we had vacated the building, sculptor David J Mitchell and his team, had to carefully remove the statues to move them to his workshop and start work on the restoration.

Once they were removed from the Citizens Theatre, they were transported to David’s studio space in Bellshill. 

The inside foyer of the Citizens Theatre. A brightly lit space with a black atrium which has the words Citizens Theatre emblazoned across it. A statue of William Shakespeare stands to the left of the photograph. Festoon lights are all around the foyer and a bar is in the centre

The elephants and nautch girls 

The plasterwork statues required some repairs and strengthening works (particularly the tusks which had taken a beating from children swinging on them over the years!).

They were then boxed up and shipped off to temporary storage with Scottish Opera who looked after them for us until the new building was complete.


a warehouse building with six statues standing around the edges. Three men are standing talking and looking at the statues
a man in a navy jumper and jeans is crouched beside a statue. He has a long thin paintbrush and is painting the statue with gold paint

Burns, Shakespeare and the muses 

The work that was required on the stone statues was a lot more involved. They had suffered all sorts of damage that needed to be remedied by the sculptor. When they were previously on the outside of the building, they had suffered from pollution and weathering. They had also been coated in white paint when they were out there that was now flaking off but had eaten into and damaged the surface of the sandstone. Various bits of stonework had been broken off, some of which had been diligently kept by the staff at the theatre, but others completely lost over the years. 

A warehouse building which is filled with eight wooden crates. A man is in the warehouse looking at something on the wall. In the background are six statues of William Shakespeare, Robert Burns and four Goddesses
The Citizens Theatre statues standing inside a warehouse.
A statue wrapped in plastic and packed inside a wooden box.

Parts of the stautes were broken but still hanging on that would need to be securely fixed. There was also damage and gaps that had been crudely filled with an inappropriate mortar that would need to be gently raggled out and repaired. 
Other statues had bits that had gone missing completely, but that we had photographic records of, which helped inform new components of the sculpture that David could make and incorporate. 

In 1977, the hand and mask were still attached to Thalia, the muse of Comedy, but it had gone missing by the time she got to the Citizens Theatre in 1989. The sculptor used the photographic record to create a replica. 

Recently, sculptor David J Mitchell talked to BBC The Loop about his journey as an artist and his work on the statues. 

Throughout the design process the architects, Bennetts Associates, have had the stone statues in various places within the design. At a time when the rest of Gorbals Street is being significantly regenerated with new buildings of scale all around us, they will once again take their place back on the top of the new building. 

Whilst they have been in the studio, the design team have done a lot of work figuring out how they will sit on the outside of the building; both structurally and aesthetically. 

a stone statue of a Goddess is in the centre. A male arm is holding up a mask to the side of the statue
the sink of an artist's workshop which is surrounded by paint palettes, tools and pots. There are four stone masks of different colours leaning against a wall

Because of their return to the outdoors, and following advice from a specialist stone conservator within Historic Environment Scotland’s Conservation team, David also applied a specialist Keim coating to prevent any future damage from weathering. After that, they were ready to get transported back to the construction site. 

The statues were wrapped in plastic for some short-term weather protection but mainly to stop them gathering any dust and debris once they arrived back on the construction site. They were carefully forklifted out of the workshop and onto the truck. They were then secured with ratchet straps on the truck in much the same way as they were when they left the Citizens Theatre in 1977. 

A large lorry transporting six stone statues

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Architect's rendering of the new redeveloped exterior of the Citizens Theatre. The building features a new facade with black cladding, neon pink lettering, and a row of statues on the roof.

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