Thanks to an invitation from my bro, today I ventured across south London to Kew Gardens, where 28 of Henry Moore’s massive sculptures have been installed, scattered throughout the gardens to form a vast outdoor exhibition (which closes next week!). Dodging the vagaries of the weather – which changed with amazing rapidity from bright sun to heavy cloud, howling gale to warm sunshine – we enjoyed a happy afternoon among these monsters (and the burgeoning daffodils, magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias – not to mention the restaurants and teashops, gift shops and loos…).
In our youth, as I recall, it used to cost one penny (at a turnstile) to enter the gardens. (I used to wonder idly whether professional gardeners or horticulturalists could claim their dally penny against income tax, as a business expense.) It now costs £12.25… If that was one old (pre-decimal) penny, at 240 to the pound, this represents an increase in admission charge by a factor of 2940, or 294,000 % ! Hmmm.
The name of Henry Moore (1898-1986) is synonymous with ’modern sculpture’ (as Picasso is synonymous with ’modern art’) even for people who would profess to know nothing about it. So these gigantic but mostly gentle and friendly figures are already icons of our collective consciousness.
The logistics and practical difficulties of borrowing (from all over the world) and installing these mighty objects, mostly of bronze and weighing many tons, do not bear thinking about. But Moore expressed an affinity for gardens and landscapes, and in this outdoor setting they looked completely at home.
They acted as a magnet to the passing crowds (especially children), who ignored the ’DO NOT CLIMB ON THE SCULPTURES’ signs and flocked all over them, scrambling, exploring, touching, knocking and stroking – particularly fascinated by anything with holes in it!
A wonderful experience, blowing away the familiar grumbles about the inaccessibility of ’modern art’ and confirming Henry Moore as one of the great artistic creators of the twentieth century.
More pictures in my ‘Henry Moore at Kew Gardens’ album on MySpace…