LONDON — A man has climbed scaffolding at the front of the BBC’s headquarters in London and hit a controversial statue with a hammer in an apparent protest.
There have been calls for Eric Gill’s Prospero and Ariel statue to be removed because the sculptor recorded sexually abusing his daughters in his diaries.
This is the second time the 1930s work at Broadcasting House has been targeted.
A protester took a hammer to it last year and the damage from that incident is still being repaired.
The Metropolitan Police said it was called at 04:15 BST on Saturday to reports of a man who had climbed scaffolding and who was damaging a sculpture.
A spokesperson added: “It has not been possible to safely detain the man given the circumstances of the incident, including the height.
“Specialist officers have been called to the scene.”
By 07:00 BST the man could be seen leaning against some scaffolding while wearing a Spiderman mask and shouting at a police officer.
A police cordon is in place and was extended during the course of the morning, with parts of Regent Street and the front of New Broadcasting House taped off.
By 11:30 BST the man could be seen leaning back on some scaffolding while police remained inside the cordon.
Born in 1882, Gill became an influential artist whose work included several large sculptures for buildings in central London, including Westminster Cathedral and the original headquarters of the London Underground.
He was also the designer of Gill Sans, a widely used British typeface.
Gill died in 1940, but in 1989 a biography was published detailing diary entries in which he described sex abuse committed against his two eldest daughters, an incestuous relationship with his sister, and sex acts carried out on his dog.
The statue outside Broadcasting House, installed in 1933, features the characters Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Ariel, a spirit of the air, is depicted as a young naked male.
Repairs following the incident last year are ongoing, and there are also plans for a QR code to be placed nearby to provide context about the statue and its history.
BBC Culture Editor Katie Razzall said Gill was an “incredibly successful and renowned sculptor and artist” whose career raises questions “about whether you can judge an artist or anybody based on their actual lives or whether their art stands alone”.
The BBC has previously said the repair work was scheduled to be completed on June 19. The corporation said the latest incident was a matter for the police and emergency services. BBC