17 April 2013

The Arts Council’s Henry Moores in Bath

The Arts Council Collection of works by British sculptors includes 11 sculptures and 15 works on paper by Henry Moore purchased between 1948 and 1963. Not for the first time these are on a UK tour which on this occasion has reached SW England at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. In the Bath show the Arts Council’s collection is supplemented with a loan of etchings by Moore from a local gallery.

One of the earliest works on paper on display is Standing Nude 1929 and the newest Women Winding Wool 1948 (below left and right). Regrettably the Arts Council collection does not include any of Moore’s World War 2 shelter drawings.

The sculptural works offer an opportunity to see one of Moore’s pre-War bronzes with strings, Stringed Figure 1938 (left).  Moore had met the emigré constructivist Naum Gabo by then but such works were as much surreal as abstract.  There are also some working models, the latest being Working Model for Knife Edge Two Piece 1962 (below left). The models are interesting but lack the monumental quality of the full size works in the open, for example the similar Knife Edge Two Piece (below right at Kew in 2008) which is familiar from another cast near Parliament in London, often a background to television interviews and currently under restoration.

In a departure from previous practice the Victoria Art Gallery has started to charge for admission to special exhibitions, in this case £3.50. The Bath and North East Somerset local authority which owns the gallery no doubt had their financial reasons for making this change. But perhaps this wasn’t the best exhibition to start with. Firstly, the taxpayers of Bath and beyond in the past supported the Arts Council in the original purchase of some of these works and subsequently in their conservation and in providing insurance through the Government Indemnity Scheme. Secondly, there was no charge to see this exhibition in its previous tour stop in Canterbury, nor will there be at its next in Limerick. More generally, Bath is a leading UK destination for cultural tourism with millions of visitors a year who bring obvious economic benefits to local businesses and employment. Is it appropriate for a city with UNESCO World Heritage site status to be charging £3.50 to see only 26 works, even if they do provide a useful survey in miniature of a major British artist?

Henry Moore In the Arts Council Collection continues in Bath until 23 June.

UPDATE 24 MAY 2013

On 17 May the Victoria Art Gallery retweeted:

Here are the forthcoming temporary exhibitions:


National Art Pass holders are now receiving a 50% discount on Victoria Art Gallery admissions.
Next summer's exhibition schedule has been revised.

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