A bronze sculpture by a celebrated English artist has come under fire as “extravagant” after the UK government spent GBP 1.3 million of taxpayer’s money to acquire it and then send it on for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s 10 Downing Street garden.
According to The Sun newspaper, Henry Moore’s ”Working Model for Seated Woman” – an abstract 1980 sculpture – is believed to have been sold at a Christie’s auction and acquired by the taxpayer-funded Government Art Collection last month.
It has sparked a cost-of-living row at a time when the country is struggling through soaring inflation, mounting household bills, and cost-cutting measures across public funding.
“It is a fine piece and an important example of Moore’s collection of seated women sculptures,” an expert told the newspaper.
“However, it may be considered an extravagant use of public funds, particularly given the economic climate,” the expert said.
Downing Street said no politicians were involved in the decision to acquire the artwork after the partially-covered sculpture was seen being wheeled into No. 10 on Thursday.
It “conveys a strong sense of maternity and pregnancy”, according to Christie’s website.
It lauds “the gentle watchfulness of the woman’s face and her guarded posture to the protective nature of her arms and the architectural shelter she offers between her lap and shoulders”, the website adds.
There has been a Moore piece in 10 Downing Street garden for the past 40 years, with works regularly rotated at the request of the late sculptor’s charitable foundation.
The UK’s Government Art Collection owns more than 14,000 such valuable art pieces in buildings across the political establishment at Whitehall in London and around the world.
Henry Spencer Moore, who died in 1986, is considered one of the most important British artists of the 20th century and arguably the most internationally celebrated sculptor of the period.
He is renowned for his semi-abstract monumental bronzes seen all over the world, including in India.