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Sculptors' papers from the Henry Moore Institute archive on view at the Whitechapel Gallery
Laurence Henderson Lawrence Bradshaw in his studio at work on the clay model of Karl Marx (1955) Vintage print Courtesy Leeds Museums & Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive)

LONDON.- The stories behind some of London’s most radical public sculptures are traced in a display drawing on the Henry Moore Institute’s rich collection of sculptors’ papers in Leeds, England. The exhibition sheds new light on sculpture in the capital, charting the creative process, political debates and critical responses surrounding realised and unrealised works from the early twentieth century onwards.

Highlights include Laurence Bradshaw’s (1899-1978) iconic Karl Marx Memorial (1956) which stands in Highgate Cemetery in north London. A pilgrimage site for international socialist leaders and politicians over the past 50 years, the monument has also been a target for attacks and demonstrations, including damage from homemade bomb explosions in the 1970s.

Also featured are plans for Alfred Frank Hardiman’s (1891-1949) imposing equestrian sculpture of World War I Field Marshall Douglas Haig, commissioned by Parliament in 1928. One of the last of its kind, the sculpture which stands in Whitehall, London, was widely criticised when unveiled, with the horse-mounted commander seen as outdated in a new age of mechanical warfare.

Rare photographs from the Henry Moore Institute archives of Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) featuring his famous British Medical Association sculptures (1908-1937) are included in the display. The series of 8ft high nude statues symbolising the ages of man were Epstein’s first major commission, installed on the façade of the British Medical Association in The Strand, London. Considered by some as highly offensive when unveiled, the controversial sculptures were destroyed in the 1930s. In an investigation into changing attitudes to public sculpture, artist Neal White’s (b. 1966) The Third Campaign (2004-5) reinvigorates Epstein’s unsuccessful battles to protect the works, through demonstrations, letters and photographs.

The conception and planning of other unconventional sculptural projects are revealed, including Power for the People (1972) by Rose Finn-Kelcey (1945- 2014), which proposed large flags bearing the phrase being mounted on prominent buildings along the Thames.

Unrealised proposals such as the Temple of Universal Ethics , an ambitious architectural development designed by Croatian sculptor Oscar Nemon (1906- 1985) to promote international relations and British-Romanian artist Paul Neagu’s (1938-2004) unrealised Starhead (1986) monument will also be explored in the display.

Sculptors ’ Papers from the Henry Moore Institute Archive is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s ongoing programme of displays presenting guest archives and drawing from the Whitechapel Gallery's own history.

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