Wednesday, 16 June 2010

(Henry) Moore Please

written by Mary Paterson

Henry Moore’s scultpures used to cause a stir. ‘A monstrosity,’ said one reviewer from the Daily Mirror, about the Leeds Reclining Figure in 1931. The general public disliked his work – sculptures were vandalised and protested against; one in the Ruhr was even tarred and feathred. And the establishment didn’t rally behind him either. Two former presidents of the Royal Academy, Alfred Munnings and Charles Wheeler, were still throwing insults at Moore by the late sixties, even though he’d been known as a major artist for over thirty years.

Yes, that Henry Moore. The artist who’s large, bronze shapes you have walked past, sat under, used as landmarks, or ignored. What happened? Did we become inured to Moore – familiarity breeds contempt. Did we stop seeing scultpure as a site for radical experimentation? Or did we just stop seeing at all? The question asked by the organisers of Moore Outside is: how can we make Henry Moore interesting to a 21st century audience?

Moore Outside is an interactive game produced by Coney in conjunction with the Moore collector John Deedham. Participants are invited to visit one of 8 Henry Moore sculptures on public display in London, listen to an mp3 downloaded from the project website ( and submit their personal responses. For every sculpture you visit, you receive a discount on the ticket price for the retrospective at Tate Britain.

Moore said, ‘Everyone thinks that he or she looks, but they don’t really you know.’ So here is a stimulus to keep looking – and to look in a certain way. But the aspect that makes Moore Outside most interesting to a contemporary audience, has nothing to do with education; or even the twin carrots of technical adventure and financial incentive. Instead, it is about space and mutuality. By provoking people into looking and listening to other interpretations (the mp3 I listened to made my hair stand on end in disagreement), Moore Outside blasts open a space to concentrate on the sculpture. And by inviting audience responses, it constructs that concentration as a reciprocal gesture.

Audience responses will be fed into the game itself, which means that it is a system built over time and out of collaboration. The net result is a shared, growing body of knowledge inspired by Henry Moore. Coney, which describes itself as an 'agency of adventure' is known for creating work that places the audience at the centre of an engaging world. I suspect that this is also what Moore meant when he talked about looking – not just a way of seeing what is in front of you, but of approaching the whole world anew. Sometimes, a work of art makes you recalibrate the world. Moore Outside begins by recalibrating public sculpture - let’s see where it takes us.

Moore Oustide runs until 8th August, as does the Henry Moore show at Tate Britain. For more information:

For more information on Coney:

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