Germany

Henry Moore’s largest bronze restored in Berlin

Work on artist’s last major work carried out by original foundry

Henry Moore's Large Divided Oval: Butterfly in Berlin

LONDON. Henry Moore’s heaviest bronze sculpture, Large Divided Oval: Butterfly, has been restored in Berlin. Weighing nearly nine tons, it was his final major work, completed just before he died in 1986. Butterfly stands in the middle of a circular basin, outside the entrance to Berlin’s House of World Cultures, a centre for non-European arts.

Butterfly was initially a loan to (then West) Berlin in 1986, but the city council wanted the sculpture permanently, and asked Moore if he would donate it. The letter arrived just before his death and went unanswered. In 1988 it was sold by the Henry Moore Foundation to Berlin for 4.5m Deutschmarks (around $2.58m at the exchange rate of the day), then a huge sum for a public sculpture.

The sculpture was eventually badly damaged by a combination of environmental pollution and vandalism. Temperature fluctuations, humidity, rain and ice caused the protective varnish on the upper part to chip off, leaving a darkened and dull surface. Vandals carved their names in the varnish in the lower part (the basin is regularly drained in winter). This left much of the surface “widely destroyed”, according to a House of World Cultures spokesperson.

The restoration work could not be done in situ, and moving Butterfly to the Noack Foundry on an oversize vehicle proved a complex logistical operation. This was the foundry where the sculpture had originally been cast. There the bronze was abraded, polished, newly patinated and varnished, to recover its original appearance. Technically, the tasks were straightforward, but the sheer scale of the sculpture made it a complicated procedure. Costs were around €150,000. Additional security has been installed to prevent further vandalism.

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