A sculpture by Castleford’s best known artist has been removed from its plinth after more than 30 years in situ to protect it from scrap metal thieves. Henry Moores ‘Reclining Figure’ was donated in 1980 to Castleford, the town where he was born in 1898.
The Civic Centre was designed by Derek Goad and officially opened a decade earlier in 1970. It is a fine example of ‘Brutalist Architecture’, an optimistic looking building that is situated in a pleasant and bright surroundings. One of the features of the building is its facing in precast concrete panels manufactured from a limestone aggregate chosen for its weathering properties: “it has been found to get naturally lighter in colour with exposure to the atmosphere so counteracting the darkening process caused by the atmosphere itself”. The chosen location for the work of art was a perfect setting to view the sculpture. Henry Moore was a confirmed Socialist who believed art belonged in public places, to be enjoyed by the masses not locked away in private collections and elitist galleries.
Nino Vella, the council’s officer in charge of museums and collections, told the Castleford Express: “This sculpture been loved and cherished in Castleford for more than 30 years. “But what’s happened in recent years is that there’s been a number of incidents where larger pieces than this have been stolen.“We’ve had advice from the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire after recent art and metal thefts that this piece is a bit too small to be sited externally.“There’s art thefts taking place across the country, particularly of the bronze and high metal content sculptures.“So rather than wait for something to happen, we’re being pro-active and doing something about it.” Mr Vella said recent incidents included the theft of Moore’s ‘Sundial’ statue from the garden of the foundation in July – which was recovered ten days later and the theft of a Barbara Hepworth (Moore’s former wife) sculpture from the Dulwich Art Gallery, which has not been found.Mr Vella added: “It was a risk to leave it outside because once it’s gone, it’s gone. Some of these sculptures are stolen because of the metal value and to lose such a beautiful piece would be a terrible thing”.
‘Reclining Figure’, valued at 5 – 10 million pounds, was dually moved by Wakefield Council last week. The bronze was taken from the site due to the increase in art and metal thefts across the country. Several Moore sculptures have been targeted by thieves in the last few years because of their high quality bronze content. The works have been sold for a fraction of the price of their commercial value on the art market and melted down for scrap.