The Headington Shark
Officially called Untitled 1986, the shark sculpture is embedded head-first, giving the impression of having fallen out of the sky.
It was installed by crane on the roof of 2 New High Street on 9th August 1986 by Bill Heine who said that his motive was “…to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation … it is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki.”
Although the police were informed that the installation was taking place, they were unable to take action as there is no criminal law preventing a homeowner installing a sculpture on their own roof. However, it was the immediate focus of controversy, with local residents complaining and Oxford City Council trying to remove it on safety grounds. When this proved unsuccessful they attempted enforecment action because of a lack of planning permission.
As time went on though, it became a minor attraction for Oxford and support from local residents’ began to grow. After six years of legal proceedings, central government became involved, with ministers in the Department of the Environment deciding in 1992 that the shark could remain as it did not cause ‘harm to the visual amenity’.
In August 2007, the shark was renovated by Buckley, and in 2016, Heine’s son bought the house to ensure its preservation.
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