Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Audacious' theft of two-ton sculpture leaves art world reeling

Paul's comment: The police think this elaborite theft might be for the scrap value of this piece, is that because they don't see it's aestetic value being worth as much? For Moore (the artist) this was a change from curves to points, and for some that alone adds to it's value.

From an artist point of view this theft made me wonder: If an artist works for a long time on a piece of art and it turns into something that is not beautiful, don't they sometimes have to withold thier own judgement and think of the time invested and the fact that the piece has a `historic' ( read noval) value? Would he (Moore) have had the integrity and strength to destroy a piece that lacked inate beauty at it's completion? ( Do I?)

The theft gives this piece an added celebrity now, a sign about the theft might be placed on a neat stand beside the work after it's recovered. The reader might then ask themselves why would anyone want to steal this? Maybe for the scrap value? Or maybe the viewer might think: 'It must be valuable `art' if anyone would take all those pains to steal it.'

Big loss: Moore's bronze Reclining Figure is valued at £3 million.
Photograph: Hertfordshire Constabulary/ PA

'Audacious' theft of two-ton sculpture leaves art world reeling


NICKING a painting off the wall of a sleepy country gallery is one thing. Making off with an 11ft-long, two-ton bronze sculpture worth £3m is quite another.

In the biggest art heist in Britain for more than two years, thieves wearing hoodies and baseball caps have stolen one of the renowned British sculptor Henry Moore's most valuable works from an English country estate using a crane and open-back lorry.

In the completely unchallenged theft, the bronze, Reclining Figure, disappeared from a courtyard at the late artist's home in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, on Thursday.
Police investigators believe the giant bronze may have been stolen for its scrap value. But art industry experts last night suggested the famous sculpture could have been stolen to order.

Dick Ellis, a former Scotland Yard detective and UK expert on art theft, said: "This sculpture has been taken because the grounds were open and it was easily available. The theft has been thought through and well planned but scrap would not be a good earner for the thieves. Henry Moore is a desirable artist and a highly saleable one. There is bound to be a bigger return for the thieves from an illegal buyer."

Gerald Laing, the Scottish-based sculptor and artist, said: "They must have taken it for a client. They are not hard to get at because Moore believed that his work should be openly exhibited. I suspect it will be in a box and heading abroad within days."

The theft from the open courtyard was captured on CCTV but police yesterday revealed only sketchy details, revealing that a red Mercedes flatbed lorry, fitted with a crane on the back, and an old-style Mini Cooper, had been used in the audacious operation.

The team apparently circumvented locked gates and an alarm system, while the sculpture was in the process of being moved to another location. One thief was described as wearing a hooded jacket and another a baseball cap.

Chief Inspector Richard Harbon said police classed the statue as a "national treasure" and a team of detectives was now working on a number of theories behind the theft. Work included liaison with the Met's Fine Arts Squad and Hertfordshire's own specialists.

He added: "It is a nationally-renowned sculpture and very, very difficult to get rid of. So, obviously, we are looking at all the possibilities, as I said, right from scrap metal right up to fine arts theft.

"This is not opportunist theft. These are people who knew what they were doing, knew what they were after. A very, very audacious theft."

A substantial reward has been offered by the Henry Moore Foundation for information leading to the statue's recovery.

Moore, who died aged 88 in 1986, crafted the sculpture in 1969 and 1970.

Gareth Spence, a spokesman for the Henry Moore Foundation, said it was the first such crime at the foundation, where there were gates, alarms, and a keyholder permanently present. "We don't imagine this type of thing happening. A combination of the gates and the location would seem to negate them [sculptures] being lifted out of the grounds and stolen. It is quite a daring thing to do, and it will cause a reassessment of our security process."

Spence said the statue represented a development into pointed shapes for the artist and was "an important piece", famous throughout the world.

"It is very representative of Moore. You automatically think of Moore's legacy. I think it would be very hard for anyone to sell. The recipient - where would they display it? It is meant to be displayed outside," he said.

Considered by many to be the most outstanding British sculptor of the century, Henry Moore was born the seventh of eight children, in the coalmining town of Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898. He began carving in wood and modelling clay at school and, after serving in the Great War, became the first ever student of sculpture at Leeds School of Art in September 1919 before winning a scholarship to London.

In 1992 Moore's collection of 666 sculptures, 3,000 drawings and 8,000 prints was valued at £130m

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