Nuffield Chesterfield Hospital
American artist Frank Benson (b.1976) has been appointed by Nuffield Health to develop a new public artwork for Bristol. The commission has been made possible through the redevelopment of Clifton Court, one of Clifton’s earliest villas and now home to Nuffield’s Chesterfield Hospital.
The redevelopment has involved the restoration of a historic Grade II listed building with a rich local history and the erection of a new hospital building to the rear of the site. Clifton Court was built in 1742 by prominent Bristol industrialist Nehemiah Champion as a home for him and his wife, Martha Goldney. Champion made his money through the metal industry, helping to establish brass works at Baptist Mills in Easton and Warmley, Bristol.
The Goldney family and Champion were renowned for their interest in emerging industries, including – for Thomas Goldney II, Martha’s father – the shipping trade and its more dubious cousin, privateering. A privateer was a person or ship authorised by a government to attack foreign vessels during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilising armed ships and sailors without having to spend treasury resources or commit naval officers.
It was one of Thomas Goldney’s privateering expeditions that resulted in the rescue of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 1721) from an uninhabited island in the South Pacific where he had been marooned for four years after he refused to re-board the ship he was travelling on after judging it un-seaworthy. It is believed that Alexander Selkirk was the figure upon whom Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ was based when it was published in 1719.
Frank Benson’s proposal for the development responds to this story, investigating the links between the site, Selkirk and the way in which brass and bronze production has helped to shape the local landscape. In his work Benson has investigated manufacturing processes, and the suspension of movement through hyper-realistic sculptures and photography. For his 2011 sculpture Human Statue (Jessie) he employed a process of ‘rapid prototyping’ to produce a series of 3D scans which were then cast in bronze.
Frank Benson lives and works in New York and is represented in London by Sadie Coles gallery. His work appeared in The Human Factor exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London (2014) and on the roof of the ICA in 2013.
As project manager working on behalf of art consultants Willis Newson, Suzanne is responsible for overseeing the artist’s design development process and delivery of the completed commission.