The Ownerless Moore in Westminster

Though it could be worth up to £5 million, Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Two Piece isn’t being claimed by anyone. The three-ton sculpture, which was donated by the artist to his nation in 1967 and which he recorded as belonging to the City of London, actually resides in the City of Westminster; confusingly, it doesn’t seem to belong to either. The patina of the bronze has turned to inky black, that is, where the surface isn’t scratched over with graffiti dating back to the mid-1970s; rain water pools under the work on the platform Moore had specifically said he didn’t want. Despite its deteriorating condition, nothing can be done until an organization steps forward to claim ownership of the piece. Even its current site is less than ideal, given that concrete air vents from the parking garage underneath block the view of the sculpture from the sidewalk.

‘Two-Piece Knife Edge’ by Henry Moore

Martin Bailey reports in The Art Newspaper (October 2011), what is known: the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Greater London Authority, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Parliamentary Estate, and the Parliamentary Art Collection all deny ownership (and therefore responsibility) of one of the most important Moore sculptures in the United Kingdom. The Palace of Westminster’s Deputy Curator Melanie Unwin states the problem succinctly: “All of the organizations I have approached have said it is not them. It is even possible that the sculpture does not have a legal owner, but this is something on which we will have to seek legal advice.”

The closed circuit, “do not pass go” research behind what Bailey calls a “Kafkaesque trail” leaves just one thing certain. Until someone steps forward, the sculpture will continue to languish in its damaged state. If money were no issue, I know I wouldn’t mind having something to put in my backyard.

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