Gorilla Alcove (Middlesbrough, Peter Mountain, 1987)

Status: Largely Removed (Vandalised)

If you’re eating your tea, you might want to come back to this one later on – it gets a little messy at points…

Thanks to Mandy Durham for sending these photos of Peter Mountain’s alcove (found on Princess Street behind the Police HQ).

Peter was Artist in Residence at St. Hilda’s in 1987, making artworks for the community. This piece consisted of an aluminium cast of a gorilla, which was the centrepiece of an alcove marking the boundary of St. Hilda’s. The alcove depicted a couple of ostriches which mirrored the legs of the Transporter Bridge.

I’ll leave the next bit to the sculptor Peter himself, who got in touch in 2020:

“If I remember, the gorilla part of the alcove was sited first before the alcove was built around it the next day. It was concreted into the plinth the day before and I had to watch over it in the evening, sitting in my Ford Capri, so the local kids didn’t damage or destroy it. It created quite an interest.

Local kids gathered and hovered, being frustrated that I was guarding it. They jovially (I think) suggested what they were going to do to it and destroy it, but no-one actually did anything. Then, to my dismay and others, one kid just walked up to the gorilla, stood astride it, dropped his trousers, squatted and did a perfectly-formed poo on its head. I was shocked, amused and impressed in equal measure. The kids ran off laughing.”

Whenever I tire of researching public art, I’ll always remember that the next story like this could be right around the corner.

The gorilla was stolen at some point, then later found in a pond, and is now safe and sound in the Dorman Museum. I can’t help but think it deserves its retirement there after everything it’s been through, poor thing.

The things I’ve seen…

Time moves on and public art rarely escapes its ravages. Peter’s alcove has suffered a fair bit from vandalism and the passage of the years. Thanks to Chris Corbett, who is the Community Engagement Officer at Teesside Archives for sharing this recent photo of the alcove, which is in a pretty sorry state now. Still, at least the gorilla will be spared any further indignities.

4 thoughts on “Gorilla Alcove (Middlesbrough, Peter Mountain, 1987)

  1. Tony Duggan March 30, 2022 / 9:21 am

    A second cast gorilla by Peter was located at the entrance to the Sussex Street underpass On the Wilson Street side close to the Station . This was stolen and in my capacity working for the Council I had to ring the police and say someone had stolen a gorilla😂


    • istubbs November 21, 2022 / 10:33 am

      That is the one that is now in the Dorman Museum.


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