Post-war public artworks gain Government protection

Forty-one sculptures designed to bring England's public spaces back to life after WWII have been listed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The Grade II-listed 2MS Series No. 1 in Milton Keynes, created by Bernard Schottlander in 1970. Image: Historic England
The Grade II-listed 2MS Series No. 1 in Milton Keynes, created by Bernard Schottlander in 1970. Image: Historic England

The sculptures - ranging from an Anthony Gormley masterpiece to three Barbara Hepworth pieces and a Henry Moore outside the Houses of Parliament - have been listed on the advice of Historic England.

These sculptures, most listed at Grade II and some Grade II*, were designed to bring the country's public spaces back to life after the Second World War as England began to repair its shattered towns and cities.

As public art, they were created for everyone, to humanise and enrich streets, housing estates, work places, shopping centres, expanding universities and schools.

The 41 newly listed pieces capture the mood of post-war public feeling, depicting a range of themes from the celebration of industry in northern England such as mining and wool, to the importance of family, play and even a commemoration to children killed by the Blitz. Some were unpopular at the time, being seen as too unsettling or too avant-garde and only now are they starting to get the appreciation they deserve.

Roger Bowdler, director of listing at Historic England, said: "These sculptures were commissioned and created for everybody and have become a precious national collection of art which we can all share.

"They enrich our lives, bring art to everyone and deserve celebration. We have worked with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Tate, and the Twentieth Century Society throughout this project to ensure our most special public art is protected and continues to enhance our public spaces."

Among the new listings is Anthony Gormley's Untitled [Listening] in Camden, London. The first of his pieces to be listed, this was one of his first public sculpture commissions and marked the beginning of a career dedicated to creating monumental pieces of art for the public.

Three works by Barbara Hepworth have been listed, two at Grade II*. Her Winged Figure - a landmark of London's Oxford Street on the side of John Lewis - was designed to make people feel "airborne in rain and sunlight", while Single Form (Memorial) in London's Battersea Park was her personal response to the death of a friend.

Elsewhere, three of the newly listed works are in Harlow, known as The Sculpture Town, including a play sculpture of a bronze donkey, now worn to a shine from years of use, designed so that children could interact with and experience art.

Historic England has recently warned that some fine works of public art have been destroyed, sold, lost or stolen. Their stories, and those of these newly listed sculptures, will be explored in Historic England's upcoming exhibition at Somerset House, "Out There: Our Post-War Public Art" from February to 10 April 2016.

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