Henry Moore is no stranger to the PATO blog. His not-so-well-loved statue, the Archer, was our inaugural profile. Now that we’ve broken the one hundred post milestone, it seems appropriate to visit another of his iconic works, this one more revered by the population of Toronto.
Located at the intersection of Dundas and McCaul Streets, Moore’s Two Large Forms has been a city landmark since it was installed in 1974. Two Large Forms serves as an anchor to both the Art Gallery of Ontario building and their extensive collection of Moore’s works, a 900 piece assemblage of sculptures, maquettes, and drawings, the most extensive grouping of his art in the world.
The installation is massive, requiring several cranes to place it properly back in 1974. Together the two bronze pieces stretch over 6 meters in length. It is the first of three castings of the piece; the other two are located in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near where Moore grew up, and outside the Bundeskanzleramt in Bonn, Germany.
Moore never really worked in anything but a massive scale. That’s because he liked to have people interact and connect with his pieces, to touch, to climb, and to view them from different angles. They are also constructed to be outside. One of Moore’s motivations was to see the way the environment would affect his sculptures and the viewing experience depending on lighting, time of day, weather, and location.
There are many consequences to Moore’s desire for his art to be interactive and open to the elements. In the case of Two Large Forms, the wear and tear on the piece has been significant over 40 plus years. In 2015, the AGO had to embark on a very expensive restoration project to return the piece to its former glory. Generations of school children using the sculpture as a jungle gym resulted in the brown patina coating the piece to be worn away. As a result, the textured surfaces were polished to the point of oblivion in some places and the piece began to corrode. Stress cracks also began to appear along the welded seams and in the central opening where people often stand for portraits and selfies.
The restoration, completed in June of that year, was largely successful, except for one area of the sculpture. Conservators simply could not undo the damage around the central void. The deep hatch marks that Moore had placed over the entire surface of the piece and the dark brown patina had been permanently burnished away by the butts of thousands of schoolchildren over the decades and could not be returned to its original state. Conservators have managed to arrest the wear and tear for the most part by coating the entire piece with a protective layer of microcrystalline wax.
The piece should now be good for another forty years of fun and games.