Sculpture in the Square (until 27 June) is a free exhibition that will display 10 works offered in the Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale as part of 20th Century at Christie’s (26 to 29 June). The sculptures on show will include pieces by Anthony Caro, Elisabeth Frink, Kenneth Armitage, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, among others.
Presented in the garden square adjacent to Christie’s historic headquarters on King Street, the one-off exhibition will showcase the works as they were made to be seen — in a landscape setting.
‘Sculpture in the Square offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate leading Modern sculptures within the surroundings that the artists intended for them,’ explains exhibition curator Nicholas Orchard, Senior Director, Modern British & Irish Art at Christie’s.
Orchard explains that as a small green space in an urban environment, St James’s Square is formally set out, with limited opportunities for display. ‘The challenge was to find the right mix of works to fit the space that would not clash with or overwhelm each other, or the square,’ he says. ‘Luckily the square is beautiful and very well laid out and planted, providing a surprising amount of variety and backdrops for the various works.
‘These monumental forms will lead the Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale and are a key element of the 20th Century at Christie’s season,’ he adds. ‘It is an honour to present these pieces within the prestigious garden setting of St James’s Square at a moment when the artworks will be complemented by the square’s flora.’
A focal point for the exhibition is a group of sculptures from The Tuttleman Collection. During their marriage, Edna and Stanley Tuttleman curated an eclectic and diverse collection of art, spanning multiple decades and a variety of media. Leading the group is Barbara Hepworth, who consistently focused on landscape and its interaction with human beings in her sculptures.
Curved Form (Bryher II ), from 1961, is pierced with a large hole — an essential element in Hepworth’s sculpture from 1932 onwards. The work on show belongs formally to the artist’s ‘Single Form’ series, which she first approached in the 1930s and developed throughout her career.
This group of works — first in wood and marble, then later in bronze — has become enmeshed with the story of the Noble Prize-winning second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, and his relationship with Hepworth. Hepworth found in Hammarskjöld a kindred spirit, and they shared views on both the responsibility of the artist within the community as well as that of the individual within society.
Other casts of Curved Form (Bryher II ) are in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., and at the De Doelen Concert Hall, Rotterdam.
Orchard describes the Hepworth as ‘a firm favourite’, referring to its ‘beautiful leaf-shaped form pierced with the circular hole, and the negative space that allows the green of the landscape to flood through and embrace the viewer.’
Further highlights from The Tuttleman Collection include London (1966) by Sir Anthony Caro. After assisting Henry Moore in the mid-1950s, Caro visited New York where he met the influential art critic Clement Greenberg, along with leading American artists including Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski and the sculptor David Smith. On his return to England Caro’s work of the 1960s incorporated industrial materials which he painted in bright household colours and transformed through cutting and welding to create urban, radical assemblages. By placing works on the ground without a plinth, he asked the viewer to question traditional attitudes and perspectives.
‘I absolutely love it,’ says Orchard of the piece. ‘To me, the work expresses a huge amount about the creative energy and spirit in Britain in the mid-1960s. It epitomises Swinging London — the epicentre of youth culture at the time, challenging boundaries — but of course the pillar-box red is emblematic of the city.’
Elisabeth Frink’s Horse (1980) was originally commissioned by the Earl of March for Goodwood racecourse in Sussex. Throughout her life Frink was drawn to nature, but her sculptures were not intended as exact likenesses; instead she strove to capture the spirit and characteristics of her subjects.
In Horse, Frink focuses on the animal’s strength and speed. Its muscular body, long extended neck and delicate legs, which she depicts in motion, lend a wonderful sense of dynamism to the work, complemented by the horse’s alert pose and pricked ears.
When asked what he hopes visitors will take away from seeing these works en plein air, Orchard replies, ‘The joy of mixing the natural beauty of the landscape with the creative spirit of the artist.’ For all those who stop by, it promises to be a rewarding experience.