The City Sculptures Project 1972 @ Henry Moore

Upon entering the gallery, we are subjected to the intimidating gaze of the five-metre-tall King Kong sculpture that appears to almost guard the gallery. A gaze, stature and magnificence that creates a curious dialogue between you and the sculpture, an idea echoed inside.

In 1972, City Sculpture Projects funded by the Peter Stuyvesant foundation, commissioned artists to create large scale sculptures across eight UK cities. With a socialist underpinning, it sought to remove art from prestigious London galleries, and place it into public spaces, ambitiously attempting to immerse sculpture in everyday city life.

‘With a socialist underpinning, it sought to remove art from prestigious London gallery’s, and place it into public spaces’

Through the curatorial vison of Jon Wood, the exhibition demonstrates the importance of engaging the public with sculpture, and beautifully weaves together a narrative of this historical moment. It thoughtfully displays a range of informative materials, namely sculptures, maquettes, photographs and original drawings. However, the use of voice recordings and articles contemporary to the project, allows the most honest insight into the public’s reception of the Art.

The Artists were tasked with each creating a sculpture that responded to a city. This connection between the city and sculpture, though ambiguous, is also incredibly interesting. William Pye’s ‘Mirage’ sculpture for Cardiff creates an elegant response, through the sculpture’s proposed manipulation of light. Comparatively, we have a very bold embodiment of Sheffield by Nigel Hall, which refers to the city’s history by using Sheffield steel. Thus we have a range of abstractness that freely allows multiple interpretations from the viewer.

‘A very bold embodiment of Sheffield by Nigel Hall… refers to the city’s history by using Sheffield steel.’

Although the sculptures were removed from the cities, the project paved way for the potential of public sculpture, and the spirit of the project is most certainly reflected in the Institute; as Lisa Le Feuvre noted at the end of the preview night, (Head of sculpture studies), ‘sculpture reminds of us our humanity in times when it is hard to do so’, her words resonating throughout the building.

The exhibition on until 19 February and open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-5.30pm. Visit is for more information.

Hannah Marsh 

Image: Nicholas Monro, Maquette for King Kong (1972)

(Courtesy of the artist and Wolverhampton Arts & Museums and The Henry Moore Institute)

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