Can the nation’s public art be saved?

Historic England has moved to help 41 postwar public sculptures receive Grade II status so they can be protected from being destroyed, lost or stolen.

Rosewall (Curved Reclining Form) by Barbara Hepworth, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, 1960-2. Listed Grade II This was named after a hill in Cornwall which is surrounded by ancient stones worn by time and weather. “The stone is myself” Hepworth said, “looking out to the Atlantic with the sound and smell of the sea”. In the early 1920s Hepworth won a scholarship to study stone carving in Italy and throughout the earlier part of her career worked predominantly in wood and stone. © Historic England
Rosewall (Curved Reclining Form) by Barbara Hepworth, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, 1960-2. Listed Grade II © Historic England

Efforts are being made to save dozens of sculptures and pieces of public art around the UK, which are at risk from theft or being destroyed or removed by land owners.

Conservation group Historic England has worked with the Government to identify and protect 41 postwar public sculptures under threat by awarding them Grade II listed status.

Works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Gormley have all been protected. It is the first time a Gormley piece has been listed.

“Designed to bring our public spaces back to life”

Historic England says: “These sculptures were designed to bring our public spaces back to life after the Second World War… they were created for everyone, to humanise and enrich our streets, housing estates, work places, shopping centres, expanding universities and schools.”

The sculptures that are being protected tackle themes including Northern England’s industries, the importance of family, play, and a commemoration of children killed in the Blitz.

Historic England concedes that while some sculptures were unpopular at the time and seen as too avant-garde “only now are they starting to get the recognition they deserve”.

First Gormley to receive Grade II status

Among the new listings is Anthony Gormley’s Untitled in Camden, London. It was one of his first public sculpture commissions and helped launch his career.

Three Hepworth’s have been listed, two at Grade II*. Hepworth once said her Winged Figure, which can be found next to John Lewis on London’s Oxford Street, would make people feel “airborne in rain and sunlight” and Single Form (Memorial) in London’s Battersea Park was her response to the death of a friend.

In Harlow, Essex there are three newly listed works including a bronze donkey, by Willi Soukop which has been worn shiny from years of use. It was designed for children to interact and play with.

This map shows where all of the protected pieces are displayed.

An exhibition is being put on to help the cause

Roger Bowdler, director of listing at Historic England said: “These sculptures were commissioned and created for everybody and have become a precious national collection of art which we can all share. They enrich our lives, bring art to everyone and deserve celebration.”

Other groups included in the project include Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Tate, and the Twentieth Century Society.

The stories of sculptures which have already been destroyed, sold, lost or stolen, as well as those which need to be saved will form part of an exhibition, Out There: Our Post-War Public Art, by Historic England at Somerset House from 3 February – 10 April.

Single Form (Memorial) by Barbara Hepworth, Battersea Park, London, 1961-62. Listed Grade II* This was Hepworth’s personal response to the death of her friend, the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammaskjold who was killed in a plane crash whilst on a peace mission to the Congo. It was the model for a much larger version outside the United National Secretariat building in New York- the most prestigious commission for her career. © Historic England
Single Form (Memorial) by Barbara Hepworth, Battersea Park, London, 1961-62. Listed Grade II*
© Historic England
Winged Figure by Barbara Hepworth, Oxford Street, London, 1963. Listed Grade II* One of Hepworth’s most important works this is an Oxford Street landmark. Unusually, it is in the same position and context for which it was originally intended as a commission for the John Lewis store. Through it Hepworth said she wanted to evoke a sensation of freedom: “if the figure in Oxford Street gives people a sense of being air-bourne in rain and sunlight and nightlight, I will be very happy”. © Historic England
Winged Figure by Barbara Hepworth, Oxford Street, London, 1963. Listed Grade II* © Historic England
Knife Edge Two Piece by Henry Moore, Westminster, 1967. Listed Grade II* Positioned in the heart of Westminster, this piece is typical of the monumental abstract bronze sculptures which characterised Moore's late career. Moore was one of England’s most important avant-garde artists. He donated hundreds of sculptures to galleries and institutions across the world leading art historians to claim that no one has been as influential as Moore in explaining and promoting the art of sculpture. © Historic England
Knife Edge Two Piece by Henry Moore, Westminster, 1967. Listed Grade II* © Historic England
3B Series No. 1 by Bernard Schottlander, Coventry, 1968. Listed Grade II Again by Schottlander, this is a large scale abstract collection of bright red geometric shapes outside the Rootes building at the University of Warwick. The weighty shapes relate to each other, the ground and the surrounding buildings in a striking yet playful way. The University’s architects Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall commissioned several pieces of art to complement their buildings. Rosenberg felt that his “white tile buildings needed colour and visual stimulus”. © Historic England
3B Series No. 1 by Bernard Schottlander, Coventry, 1968. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Help! By F E McWilliam, Harlow, 1976. Listed Grade II A piece charged with emotion and political commentary, Help! depicts two women caught in a bomb blast, holding a banner branded with the word “HELP” which acts as a defiant gesture of protest as well as a protective shield. McWilliam was Northern Irish and he created Help! in response to the carnage wreaked by escalating Northern Irish violence from the 1960s. This piece particularly references a bomb blast at a Belfast tea room in March 1972. Through this arresting, typically surrealist piece he commemorates the role of women in conflict, dedicating it to female peace campaigners Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. © Historic England
Help! By F E McWilliam, Harlow, 1976. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Pan Statue by Jacob Epstein, Knightsbridge, London, 1958-9. Listed Grade II In this piece, originally named “Rush of Green”, a family accompanied by Pan rush away from the urban traffic to the green of Hyde Park. It received a mixed reception but many have celebrated its reckless sense of energy, proclaiming it to be Epstein at his happiest- a touching thought as this was the last piece he made before he died. © Historic England
Pan Statue by Jacob Epstein, Knightsbridge, London, 1958-9. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Ventilation Shaft Cover by Eduardo Paolozzi, Pimlico, London, 1982. Listed Grade II Eduardo Paolozzi was an artist of national and international reputation. Paolozzi’s interest in machines and technology influenced his sculpture from the 1950s onwards. This cast metal sculpture covers a ventilation shaft for the London Underground and features pipes, grilles and casts of mechanical parts, insects, birds and fish. © Historic England
Ventilation Shaft Cover by Eduardo Paolozzi, Pimlico, London, 1982. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Prisoner of War Memorial by Fred Kormis, 1967-69. Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, London. Listed Grade II In this moving piece, Kormis explores the themes of freedom and captivity, depicting 5 male figures who are prisoners, each in a different stage of emotion and turmoil. Kormis was himself a prisoner of war during the First World War before escaping to Frankfurt in 1920. When Hitler came to power in the 1930s, he and his wife fled to England. Ever since escaping from the camp his major ambition was to create a memorial to prisoners of war, which are very rare in England. © Historic England
Prisoner of War Memorial by Fred Kormis, 1967-69. Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, London. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz) by Peter Laszlo Peri, Vauxhall, London, 1949. Listed Grade II A poignant dedication to the children who lost their lives in the Blitz, this sculpture is an early example of the Hungarian artist Peri’s work and one of three unusually commissioned for social housing estates in South Lambeth by London County Council (LCC). The cascading figures of children holding hands are cast in coloured concrete- an innovation which Peri was known for. He is an underrated artist who intended for his pieces to brighten up the environment of the people who lived beside them. © Historic England
Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz) by Peter Laszlo Peri, Vauxhall, London, 1949. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Gorilla by David Wynne, 1962. Crystal Palace Park (originally in the Children’s Zoo), London. Listed Grade II   This hulking marble sculpture depicts Guy the gorilla, a major attraction at London Zoo and something of a national treasure in the 1960s. The mass, muscle and power of the gorilla is expertly captured by celebrated artist David Wynne who was commissioned through the London County Council’s public art programme. Wynne was fascinated by animal forms, spending countless hours at the zoo, studying the behaviour and movements of animals. © Historic England
Gorilla by David Wynne, 1962. Crystal Palace Park (originally in the Children’s Zoo), London. Listed Grade II © Historic England
A Celebration of Engineering Sciences on Department of Mechanical Engineering Building at University of Leeds by Allen Johnson, 1963. Listed Grade II The dynamic shapes symbolise the struggle between man and machine. It is made from light weight glass fibre reinforced polyester (GFRP) shaped from handmade clay moulds which give the whole piece an organic quality. It is the crowning glory of the Mechanical Engineering Building at the University of Leeds, designed by architect Allen Johnson who also designed several of the University’s buildings. After 1945 new and rapidly expanding universities like Leeds commissioned public artworks to introduce some human interest into the architecture. © Historic England
A Celebration of Engineering Sciences on Department of Mechanical Engineering Building at University of Leeds by Allen Johnson, 1963. Listed Grade II © Historic England
The Story of Wool by William Mitchell, 1968. International Development Centre, Valley Drive, Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Listed Grade II This is a stylised flock of sheep complete with careful detailing of their curled horns, cloven hooves and thick fleeces. It was made from glass reinforced plastic, a material the artist William Mitchell pioneered as a cheaper, lighter alternative to bronze. This was commissioned for the new Technical Centre of the International Wool Secretariat, an organisation established to promote the use and trade of wool in response to the increased use of synthetic fibres in the 50s and 60s. The centre was built in 1968 in Ilkley, as West Yorkshire was the main centre of the British woollen textile industry. © Historic England
The Story of Wool by William Mitchell, 1968. International Development Centre, Valley Drive, Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Listed Grade II © Historic England
The Miner by Arthur Fleischmann, St Helens, 1964. Listed Grade II This piece incorporates a cutting drum- a genuine piece of mining machinery. It is a celebration of the technical advances in mining and the strength of man. Originally commissioned by the National Coal Board for outside their North West headquarters, it now stands near to the Ravenhead Colliery which closed when the reserves ran out. It is a heroic testament to a once great local industry. © Historic England
The Miner by Arthur Fleischmann, St Helens, 1964. Listed Grade II © Historic England
The Preacher by Peter Laszlo Peri, 1961. On Forest Gate Methodist Church, Woodgrange Road, Forest Gate, London. Listed Grade II A striking, long limbed figure grasps a prayer book and preaches out to the world. The sculpture is made up of a dark, textured mix of concrete, resin and metallic powders developed by Peri and dubbed ‘Pericrete’. It is known as a “diagonal sculpture” and is the only one of its kind in London. © Historic England
The Preacher by Peter Laszlo Peri, 1961. On Forest Gate Methodist Church, Woodgrange Road, Forest Gate, London. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Untitled [Listening] by Anthony Gormley, 1983-4. Maygrove Peace Park, London. Listed Grade II One of Gormley’s first public sculpture commissions and the first of his pieces to be listed as it is now over 30 years old. Through the universal human gesture of a figure cupping its ear to listen, rooted to a huge granite boulder, this piece embodies the relationship between the interior world of the human body and its spatial surroundings- one of the key themes of Gormley’s work. Placed in Maygrove Peace Park in north-west London, it was commissioned to be a reminder of Camden Council’s commitment to peace, with the park formally opened on the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. © Historic England
Untitled [Listening] by Anthony Gormley, 1983-4. Maygrove Peace Park, London. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Donkey by Willi Soukop, Harlow, 1955. Listed Grade II The scale and stylisation of this sweet little donkey mean it is enjoyed by a range of people, young and old. It stands at the heart of a housing scheme in Harlow- a New Town in Hertfordshire which amassed a collection of high quality sculptures for public spaces. The donkey’s back, now worn to a shine, shows that it has been much loved as a play sculpture. These were created to encourage children to explore art through play using contrasting shapes and textures. © Historic England
Donkey by Willi Soukop, Harlow, 1955. Listed Grade II © Historic England
Relief of Boys Playing Football by Peter Laszlo Peri, 1951-2. Wareham House, South Lambeth Estate, Fentiman Road, London. Listed Grade II This was also commissioned for a social housing estate in South London which was rare during the period of austerity following the war. Although Peri was largely ignored by the 20th Century British art establishment, perhaps because of his Hungarian nationality or communist leanings, he produced many pieces of art for social housing and educational buildings. © Historic England
Relief of Boys Playing Football by Peter Laszlo Peri, 1951-2. Wareham House, South Lambeth Estate, Fentiman Road, London. Listed Grade II © Historic England

Latest articles

hull3

Jaywing creates branding for cultural initiative Hull 2017

Consultancy Jaywing has created the place branding for Hull 2017, the initiative marking the northern city’s status as UK City of Culture. The logo is an “H” shape constructed out of a series of geometric lines, used against a colourful palette of purple, green, yellow, blue and pink. Gavin Shore, creative director at Jaywing, says […]