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Restoration of Moore’s historic sculpture complete

Henry Moore’s historic sculpture, Knife Edge Two Piece (1962-5).

AFTER 26 days, the conservation of Henry Moore’s historic sculpture, Knife Edge Two Piece (1962-5) has been completed, restoring the work to its original state after decades of disrepair and vandalism, and revealing the artist’s signature.

The sculpture, sited opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, was gifted to the nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist in 1967 as part of the Contemporary Art Society’s mission to donate works of art by established and emerging artists for the benefit of public audiences across the whole of the UK.

On September 30, 1965, Whitney Straight CBE, Chairman of the Contemporary Art Society, wrote to The Ministry of Public Buildings and Works with the news that the Contemporary Art Society was “considering the possibility of making a gift of a substantial work of art to be erected at some suitable site in London”.

Henry Moore was put forward as the desired artist and the proposal was approved. Moore chose the site for the sculpture, having visited Abingdon Street Gardens a number of times. He was particularly pleased that the work would be sited across the road from Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, which he thought the best public sculpture in London.

Sophia Bardsley, Deputy Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “For 100 years, the Contemporary Art Society has been working with artists, curators and collectors to gift significant works such as this to the nation to benefit the widest possible audience. We are thrilled that Moore’s now iconic work, gifted to the nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist almost five decades ago, has been restored to its former glory for public enjoyment.

“The high-profile debate surrounding the ownership and maintenance of Knife Edge Two Piece has increased national awareness of the value and legacy of public art in the UK, which is very positive. We are delighted that the sculpture will now receive the recognition and duty of care it deserves.”

Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) was one of the UK’s most renowned sculptors. Perhaps best known for his large scale bronze sculptures, his work reached international acclaim during his life and he was awarded numerous honours including Companion of Honour (1955) and the Order or Merit (1963). In 1977, he established The Henry Moore Foundation to preserve his legacy and to encourage public appreciation of the visual arts, especially sculpture.

Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Two Piece was cast in 1962, the second cast of the work. It fell into disrepair some years after its gifting by the Contemporary Art Society, due to lack of arrangements for its ownership and care, and there is no record of any conservation work ever taking place until February 16 this year.

In 2011, the House of Commons agreed to take on ownership and duty of care for the work and brought it into the Parliamentary Art Collection. As part of this responsibility, conservation of the sculpture was required to halt further deterioration and preserve the work for future generations. The conservation was undertaken by Rupert Harris conservation, in consultation with The Henry Moore Foundation, which also supported the project financially.

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