TODAY in Edinburgh when the Queen unveils Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's

monumental bronze sculpture outside the Royal Bank of Scotland's new

Drummond House headquarters at South Gyle, she may marvel and exclaim

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but she will not have the benefit of seeing sand in its toes.

Shiny, silky, patinated, polished, glossy, and gleaming, every speck

will have been dusted away -- a high sheen sculpture truly fit for a

queen. Its title, Wealth of Nations, is imposing; so too Paolozzi's

distinguished, almost overwhelming creation with its allusions to Adam

Smith's classic about the search for noble endeavours.

''It's a sculpture that contains shadows of the past to create images

of the future,'' he explained. It also speaks for the self-confidence of

Scotland, observes Angus Grossart who, as a Royal Bank director and

chairman of the National Galleries of Scotland, commissioned the


But when I first saw this vast work of massive head, hands, and feet

(at 10 tons and measuring 20ft in height, 27ft in length, it is by far

Paolozzi's biggest sculpture), things were considerably less impeccable.

Scattered over the workshop like a giant jigsaw puzzle, numerous raw

fragments and rough-edged sections, large and small, sat ready and

waiting for a master welder, fork lift, or any number of craftsmen to

move in with tools and menacing machinery; all burners blasting,

riveters rattling, chasers chasing.

A welder was imprisoned inside the head forging the numerous cast

sections together. And there inside the toes of the two metre, 1100 cwt

foot was pale gold sand, left over from the casting process and waiting

to be carefully cleared. For this was April. I was visiting the Morris

Singer Foundry in Basingstoke where the fascinating process of

transforming Paolozzi's tiny model or maquette into bronze took place.

Singer's, established in 1848, is one of the world's leading

foundries. The Old Bailey's famous figure of Justice was made by them

and, from 1950, artists such as Hepworth, Moore, Epstein, and Paolozzi

have regularly used Singer's for their major bronzes.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, RA, Her Majesty's Sculptor for Scotland since

1986, is notorious for his adherence to the belief that sculpture can be

made out of anything -- rubbish found in skips, cardboard, papier mache

-- and thus need not be expensive. (Needless to say with Attali's lavish

''glistening'' European Bank debacle whistling in their ears, the Royal

Bank are not disclosing how much the sculpture cost, merely that the

price of the building is #60m, but sculpture gestimates hover around

half a million pounds.)

So although the finished work is bronze, for his maquette Paolozzi

uses tacky bits of old wood, formica, plasterboard, plywood, cork,

polystyrene -- anything to hand -- and sticks, glues, wedges it together

until it satisfies him. One problem for Singer's was that perfectionist

Paolozzi is rarely satisfied and has a habit of re-designing as he goes

along. In April various discarded maquettes for the blocks, columns, and

posts which make up the base were scattered to the four winds while yet

another permutation was tried and tested.

Trial and error extended to making a full-sized model of the sculpture

out of scaffolding on wheels and pushing it about in front of Drummond

House one windy, rainswept Sunday morning in order to find the exact

spot to site the piece.

Paolozzi's career now spans almost 50 years. Born in Leith, as a child

he developed a passion for art through collecting and drawing from

cigarette cards, pasting images into scrapbooks, and going to the

cinema. Technology has always fascinated him, a fact he attributes to

watching his father fiddle with radios in the back of his shop.

After Edinburgh College of Art and London's Slade, a sell-out show

enabled him to move to Paris in 1947. By the 1960s cool industrial

abstracts, sometimes painted in vivid primary colours, had replaced his

early rough organic forms. From the 1970s he has taught at both the

Royal College and in Germany where most of his large-scale works (like

Cologne's impressive Rhinegarten 1980 beside Museum Ludwig) can be


His first big work for Scotland was the aluminium doors for Glasgow

University's Hunterian Gallery; then, in 1991, the public sculpture at

Edinburgh's Picardy Place, in sight of his birthplace near Leith Walk.

London now has several large Paolozzi pieces including a monumental

figure of Newton (a recurring inspiration to him) at the new British


''Wealth of Nations is an amalgam of the three great themes which run

through the history of art: still life, the portrait, and the

landscape,'' says Paolozzi. It follows on from the Picardy piece but is

unusual in its juxtaposition and contrast of fine, curved traditional

realism (the hands and feet) and the abstracted head's bizarre

twentieth-century hard-edged com-

puter generated geometrics.

Paolozzi is interested in how machines affect our visual experience

and has done much work on the concept of man as dehumanised robot.

Grossart is aware of the implied analogy in the piece: technology as

enemy, competitor, friend. Technology has already transformed banking.

Will all staff soon be swept away on the technological tide? ''It's the

eternal dilemma,'' he says. ''How do we avoid technology's dominance;

how ensure that man masters progress properly; how guarantee the

essential human quality remains?'' Despite its all consuming

philosophical presence in his work, Paolozzi himself does not indulge in

gadgets -- not even an answering machine, as Grossart knows to his cost.

Bank buildings are traditionally symbols of power and wealth. Drummond

House is very big, covering several acres, and suitably handsome with

alternate sturdy horizontal slabs of rich grey slate and stone cladding

punctuated by tower or oasthouse corners. I have reservations about its

thunderous fortress quality and architecturally undistinguished

neighbours, but it's certainly a situation which should be helped by a

good piece of art. The juxtaposition of hard metallic curvilinear and

chunky bronze against the bank's substantial stone block should make for

a good marriage and create a strong image.

''From the beginning the sculpture was envisioned as a landmark

positioned to enhance and counterpoint the bank and the surrounding

landscape. Driving or walking round the sculpture will be like turning a

model in space,'' says Paolozzi. ''The surrounding hills are reflected

in the position of the figurative elements; the geometric parts mirror

the life of the building. The whole represents a strong belief in

optimism and progress.''

An exhibition showing the sculpture's evolution from small sketches on

scrap paper, via drawings and models to the completed bronze, runs

concurrently at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Wealth of Nations honours the Royal Bank's 1989 commitment to

Edinburgh's Percent for Art policy. Grossart has had fun spending the

#80,000 allocated to contemporary Scottish paintings for public spaces

within the bank, whose peaceful, spacious, light interior belies its

stern exterior. Grossart has mainly selected young painters who love


His choice is quite adventurous and although he has sensibly avoided

anguish, angst, and abstracts (it is a workplace after all), new

pictures by Hazel Nagl, Dorothy Black, George Donald, Annette Edgar,

Donald Mason, Christine McArthur, and others plus Edinburgh Printmakers'

1992 portfolio provide exuberant aesthetics for the 1400 members of

staff who enjoy this state-of-the-art headquarters.

* A film about the making of Paolozzi's sculpture can be seen on

Scottish next Thursday at 7pm.