PMSA Funds Project to Protect and Preserve Hepworth Sculpture in Hertfordshire

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) has granted funding of £30,000 to University of Hertfordshire to protect and preserve one of the university’s most prized artworks.

Vertical Forms , by esteemed British sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), will be removed from the façade of the building for the first time since it was created in 1952. It will then undergo critical conservation work, before taking centre stage in a major new exhibition about the artist at St Albans Museum and Art Gallery later this month.

The exhibition, Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 , runs from 23 March – 8 September 2019 and focuses on a significant period in Hepworth’s work after the Second World War – at time when she started to receive wide recognition and returned to the human form, following a decade preoccupied with landscape.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Sophie Bowness of the Barbara Hepworth Estate and Annabel Lucas, Head of UHArts at the University of Hertfordshire. It is produced by UHArts in partnership with St Albans Museum + Gallery and funded by Arts Council England, Henry Moore Foundation, The Porthmeor Fund and the Contemporary Arts Practice Research Group (School of Creative Arts).

Following the exhibition, and as part of the PMSA funded project, Vertical Forms will be re-sited at the University in a protected, prominent site to prevent further weathering of the carved detail and to ensure its preservation for the future.

Tanya Brittain , Chief Executive of the funding body PMSA, said,  “We’re absolutely delighted to fund this ‘Protect and Preserve’ project and to help bring UHArts’ vision to fruition. The passion and energy invested by the team at the university led to an easy decision in respect of our support, in partnership with Porthmeor Fund. We’re confident that the impact of our investment will be far reaching, and that the outcomes of the project will contribute hugely to our charitable aims.”

Vertical Forms is one of many notable sculptures in Hertfordshire which were acquired through the County Council’s enlightened policy of dedicating a percentage of educational construction budgets to works of art by the best British artists of the time. Commissioned for the principal façade of the new Hatfield Technical College (now the University of Hertfordshire), Vertical Forms was installed within the fabric of the building and work commences today to remove the work. Once removed it will be conserved by specialist stone specialists and art technicians.

“The University is privileged to have such a remarkable sculpture by Barbara Hepworth in its collection, and as a treasured piece we are committed to its long-term perseveration, recognition and celebration. The 6-month exhibition in St Albans gives us a rare opportunity to consider our sculpture and 19 other drawings and sculptures by Hepworth, to shed light on this short but significant period in her career and celebrate her little-known connection with Hertfordshire. We are extremely grateful to the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association and Barbara Hepworth Estate for supporting this work” , said Annabel Lucas , Head of UHArts.

Vertical Forms , along with works by Ben Nicholson, Reg Butler and Trevor Tennant, is one of the founding works of the University of Hertfordshire’s Art Collection which includes over 500 works over two campuses. A collection of thirteen external sculptures can be explored on monthly free guided Sculpture Walks.

Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53

23 March – 8 September 2019

St Albans Museum + Gallery

Town Hall, St Peter’s Street, St Albans, AL1 3DH