Hepworth Sculpture £4 Million Win for Kunsthall Stavanger Sets Record
Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Figure for Landscape (1960) sold for a record-setting £4,170,500 / ($7,085,680) at Christie’s sale of modern British and Irish art in London on Wednesday evening. Hepworth’s previous record was set at the same Christie’s sale in July of last year for Curved Form (Bryher II) (1961), which was sold for £2,413,875 ($3,604,412), according to the artnet Price Database.
The sculpture, which was estimated to fetch £1–2 million, was consigned by Norway’s Kunsthall Stavanger, which is on the brink of closure due to lacking public funds. As artnet News previously reported, the move spurred a legal battle in the country, with certain groups attempting to block the sale, while numerous international artists and curators spoke out in favor of the Kunsthall’s decision.
Over 260 members of the community signed a petition protesting against the work’s deaccession, and local organization Stavanger Byselskap filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in an attempt to bar the sale from moving forward. Hepworth’s estate called the sale, “unethical” due to the artist’s having sold the work to the Kunsthall at a reduced price in order to place her work in a Norwegian institution.
Figure for Landscape first went on view at the Kunsthall Stavanger in 1968. It is the sixth of seven casts of the work and was one of a very few Hepworth works in Norway.
The unexpectedly high proceeds from the Hepworth sculpture are to be used for the Kunsthall’s operating and exhibition budget. Without those funds, supporters claim, the Kunsthall would likely have been forced to close its doors.
In a statement to artnet News, Tromsø Kunstforening’s Leif Magne Tangen, who has been leading the charge to save the Kunsthall said: “We are sad to see the sculpture being sold. Of course the result, in financial terms, is beyond anyone’s [expectations]. But this situation is a result of a longstanding negligence by the city of Stavanger and Rogaland fylke.” Lack of “funding for Kunstforeninger (same as German Kunstverein) and Kunsthalles have been ignored by municipalities, counties (fylke), and the state for far too long.”
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