Press Release: Henry Moore sculpture, gifted to the nation by Contemporary Art Society in 1967, is restored to benefit UK audiences

24 May 2013 By
Contemporary Art Society Chairman Mark Stephens attends the unveiling of the restored sculpture, 20 May 2013. Credit: UK Parliament/Catherine Bebbington

24 May 2013

After 26 days, the conservation of Henry Moore’s historic sculpture, Knife Edge Two Piece (1962-5) has been completed, restoring the work to its original state after decades of disrepair and vandalism, and revealing the artist’s signature. The sculpture, sited opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, was gifted to the nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist in 1967 as part of the Contemporary Art Society’s mission to donate works of art by established and more emerging artists for the benefit of public audiences across the whole of the UK.

On 30 September 1965, Whitney Straight CBE, Chairman of the Contemporary Art Society, wrote to The Ministry of Public Buildings and Works with the news that the Contemporary Art Society was “considering the possibility of making a gift of a substantial work of art to be erected at some suitable site in London”. Henry Moore was put forward as the desired artist and the proposal was approved. Moore chose the site for the sculpture, having visited Abingdon Street Gardens a number of times. He was particularly pleased that the work would be sited across the road from Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, which he thought the best public sculpture in London

Sophia Bardsley, Deputy Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “For 100 years, the Contemporary Art Society has been working with artists, curators and collectors to gift significant works such as this to the nation to benefit the widest possible audience. We are thrilled that Moore’s now iconic work, gifted to the nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist almost five decades ago, has been restored to its former glory for public enjoyment. The high-profile debate surrounding the ownership and maintenance ofKnife Edge Two Piece has increased national awareness of the value and legacy of public art in the UK, which is very positive.We are delighted that the sculpture will now receive the recognition and duty of care it deserves.

For further information on the Contemporary Art Society and current projects, contact:
Jenny Prytherch, Communications Manager
+44 (0)20 7017 8412



The Contemporary Art Society is a national charity that encourages an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art in the UK. With the help of our members and supporters we raise funds to purchase works by new artists which we give to museums and public galleries where they are enjoyed by a national audience; we broker significant and rare works of art by important artists of the twentieth century for public collections through our networks of patrons and private collectors; we establish relationships to commission artworks and promote contemporary art in public spaces; and we devise programmes of displays, artist talks and educational events. Since 1910 we have donated over 8, 000 works to museums and public galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times – championing new talent, supporting curators, and encouraging philanthropy and collecting in the UK.

Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) was one of the UK’s most renowned sculptors. Perhaps best known for his large scale bronze sculptures, his work reached international acclaim during his life and was he was awarded numerous honours including Companion of Honour (1955) and the Order or Merit (1963). In 1977 he established The Henry Moore Foundation to preserve his legacy and to encourage public appreciation of the visual arts, especially sculpture.

Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Two Piece was cast in 1962, the second cast of the work, and was gifted to the nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist in 1967 as part of the Contemporary Art Society’s mission to donate works of art by established and more emerging artists for the benefit of public audiences across the whole of the UK. The sculpture is sited in Abingdon Street Gardens opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, a location chosen by the artist.

In 1964, Moore said of the location: “When I was offered the site near the House of Lords for the ‘Two-Piece Knife Edge’sculpture, I liked the place so much that I didn’t bother to go and see an alternative site in Hyde Park. I remembered as a young student a sculpture called Rima by Epstein, a memorial to the poet W.H. Hudson… Six years ago I couldn’t find it when I wanted to show it to a foreigner, which proves how easily one lonely sculpture can be lost in a large park. The House of Lords site is quite different. It is next to a path where people walk and it has a few seats where they can sit and contemplate it, unlike the placing of the very fine equestrian statue of Charles the First, in Trafalgar Square, which, in order to look at closely and appreciate in detail, you have to risk your life in crossing a maze of traffic.” (Courtesy

The sculpture fell into disrepair some years after its gifting by the Contemporary Art Society, due to lack of arrangements for its ownership and care, and there is no record of any conservation work ever taking place until 16 February this year. In 2011, the House of Commons agreed to take on ownership and duty of care for the work and brought it into the Parliamentary Art Collection. As part of this responsibility, conservation of the sculpture was required to halt further deterioration and preserve the work for future generations. The conservation was undertaken by Rupert Harris conservation, in consultation with The Henry Moore Foundation, which also supported the project financially.


Ivan Seal TUE 23 APR — FRI 24 MAY
Ivan Seal’s painting plemploted fowidead and its accompanyingdrawing ors devurth at seven (swingerbuffetbit), both 2011, were gifted by the Contemporary Art Society to Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in 2012. These works will be on display at the Contemporary Art Society with works from Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery’s collection selected by the artist.

David Hockney WED 5 JUNE — FRI 16 AUGUST [PREVIEW: TUES 4 JUNE, 18.30 — 20.30]
The Contemporary Art Society recently gifted David Hockney’sA Rake’s Progress (1961–3) to the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, as a bequest from Dr. Ronald Lande in memory of his life partner Walter Urech. We are delighted to present the entire set of 16 prints this summer. This seminal work is a semi-autobiographical story about Hockney, the ‘rake’, and the down and outs of his life in New York in the early 1960s. Its format, story and numbering system are based on William Hogarth’s 1735 suite of prints of the same title. Where Hogarth’s 18th century prints illustrate the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, Hockney’s work tells the story of the rake arriving in New York through to his eventual fate in Bedlam, a place of the mindless masses of the ‘other people’. Curator Helen Stalker of the Whitworth Art Gallery discusses the pervading influence of A Rake’s Progress at the Contemporary Art Society on 13 June.

John Stezaker WED 4 SEPT — FRI 4 OCTOBER [PREVIEW: TUES 3 SEPTEMBER, 18.30 — 20.30]
British artist John Stezaker uses collage to explore the subversive within found images such as film magazines, vintage postcards and illustrations. Fall XII and Fall XIII (both 1992) were recently bought for York Art Gallery through the Contemporary Art Society with support from the Art Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The male and female collages explore traditional artistic training such as anatomical study and life drawing, by referencing the source material of Arthur Thompson’s book Anatomy for Art Students, a core text for students at the Slade School of Art until the 1970s. Fall XIIand Fall XIII are on display at the Contemporary Art Society alongside a selection of other works from York Art Gallery’s collection. John Stezaker discusses his work at the Contemporary Art Society on 12 September.