Metal theft move for Moore sculpture

Castleford sculptor Henry Moore who died in August 1986.
Castleford sculptor Henry Moore who died in August 1986.
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A VALUABLE sculpture by Castleford’s most famous son is being uprooted from its home after more than 30 years amid fears it may be swiped by metal thieves.

Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure’ sculpture – which has been outside the town’s Civic Centre on Ferrybridge Road since 1980 – was moved by Wakefield Council last week.

The bronze artwork was removed from the site due to an increase in art and metal thefts across the country – including the theft of a Moore sculpture last month worth half a million pounds.

Nino Vella, the council’s officer in charge of museums and collections, said: “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 sculpture from the Dulwich Art Gallery, which has not been found.

The Castleford sculpture was taken off display last Friday and taken to a secure location for conservation work.

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.

“In Moore’s will it’s quite clear that no further replica sculptures are to be made after he died, so it’s not possible to recreate any of these sculptures if they’re melted down and that’s very sad.”

Moore, who died in 1986 aged 88, was born and bred in Castleford – the seventh of eight children born to Wheldale Colliery under-manager Raymond Moore.

The Temple Street School student set his heart on becoming a sculptor – inspired by Michaelangelo – aged 11 and won a scholarship to study at Castleford Secondary School, where he was encouraged by his teachers to apply for a scholarship to Leeds Art College.

Once the Civic Centre sculpture is restored it will be rehoused at the new Castleford Forum, which opens next summer.

Mr Vella said: “It’s important to keep it in Castleford and with the Forum opening it’s an ideal time to relocate it.

“We’re working on new displays about Henry Moore’s life and his connections with the town of his birth, so it makes sense to have the sculpture in that context.

“It will be seen and appreciated by many more people actually, and overall it will be a very positive thing for the sculpture and it will stay in Castleford and be cherished and loved for years to come.”