Tuesday 22 November 2011

What's the opposite of stolen art?

Free to a good home? The Burghers of Calais
The Art Newspaper reports that Rodin's monumental Burghers of Calais, standing near the Houses of Parliament, does not have a legal owner - or at least not one who'll admit to it.

While most people would probably be quite keen to own a sculpture valued in the millions, the candidates for owning for this one are denying everything.

The statues tell a story from the Hundred Years War, when Edward III besieged Calais. Edward declared that if six citizens of Calais would come out to give him their keys and their lives, he would spare the rest of the city. Rodin's six Burghers are represented on their way to meet the king, expecting to be beheaded.

Bought in 1911 by the National Art Collections Fund and donated to the nation, the statues now stand in Victoria Tower Gardens. The gardens are run by Royal Parks, and they are responsible for looking after the Rodin, but they say it's not actually theirs - even though when the Burghers were lent to exhibitions in years past, Royal Parks were credited as the lender. The Parliamentary Art Committee likewise disclaims ownership. The Art Fund notes the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as owner, but the DCMS thinks otherwise.

The story was the same with another sculpture nearby - Henry Moore's Knife Edge Two Piece. It was also donated to the nation, this time by the artist himself in 1967. The Telegraph reports that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the DCMS, English Heritage, the Government Art Collection, Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority have all confirmed it isn't theirs.

The Henry Moore Foundation recently announced that Knife Edge, in urgent need of restoration, was to be adopted by the House of Commons. Conservation is due to begin in early 2012.

As for the Burghers, anyone with house space for six life size Rodins may want to put their hand up now.

Read more in the Art Newspaper here and here.
Read more in the Telegraph.

No comments: