Zoë Santa-Olalla joined Gagosian in 2006. She has worked with the Henry Moore Foundation on several exhibitions, notably Henry Moore: Late, Large Forms, which traveled from Gagosian London to Gagosian New York.
Guston Spencer Danowski, Henry Spencer Moore’s oldest grandchild, was born and raised near his grandparents’ home in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. He worked as a professional actor in London and New York before retraining in food and wine. Gus lives with his young family in West London.
Godfrey Worsdale is director of the Henry Moore Foundation, overseeing the artist’s Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. He was previously director of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, founding director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, and director of Southampton City Art Gallery.
Zoë Santa-OlallaThis past April, to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of its founding, the Henry Moore Foundation unveiled a new library, visitor center, and archives. When did the discussions for this undertaking start, and why was it initiated?
Godfrey WorsdaleIt has its roots in the two directors who preceded me. Tim Llewellyn began a conversation with the trustees in 2005, and three years later, when he was succeeded by Richard Calvocoressi, the board was ready. There were two main goals. First, we wanted to create suitable storage for the bulk of the sculpture collection. Second, we wanted to create a master plan where all the possible needs of a modern artist’s foundation based in a place like Perry Green could be considered. Managing Perry Green requires a balance: it was originally an artist’s studio, a place where art was created, where people came to visit an artist and where that artist and his family lived, and we have to maintain a respect for the integrity of that; and then on the other hand, we want to make a visitor attraction fit for the twenty-first century. And that’s a delicate challenge.
ZSOWhat are the new buildings on the Foundation grounds at Perry Green, and what are the new features in each of the buildings?
GWThere are two parts. One is a new archive, where we can store all the material relating to Moore’s work and life and trajectory as an artist. The other is a series of spaces in which we can properly welcome and look after our guests. We have approaching a million items to care for in the archive. Because Moore was successful very early on in his career, his archive began to grow right away.
Gus DanowskiHe was very good at record-keeping.
GWAbsolutely, he kept all sorts of things. So we had his commitment to that in the first instance, and then lots of subsequent press and media. That generated an enormous amount of material that continues to grow today, so we needed somewhere to keep it. And of course it’s not all sheets of paper—it includes negatives, photographic prints, newspaper copy—and modern-day archives demand a range of different temperatures and conditions that can accommodate those different things. So our archive divides into various stores under various conditions, and then a reading room where people can sit and consult that material.
The other half of the project saw the visitor’s center develop. This gives us the opportunity to welcome people properly, to bring them into our retail space, our café. We now have a very flexible event space where we can host corporate events, weddings, etcetera, and bring school groups in.
ZSOHow was the London-based Hugh Broughton Architects firm selected for the redevelopment?
GWHugh Broughton and his practice had designed the sculpture-storage building, so they had a track record of working in Perry Green, which is not a straightforward place to undertake a major project. Hugh had also had some experience of working with Richard Calvocoressi before he joined us. So it was a nice fit in lots of different ways. Hugh really understood the challenge that any small English hamlet is going to present, of practicing as a signature architect in a very constrained and particular site. But the sculpture store was such a success that I suspect everyone felt that this practice needed to continue to work at Perry Green.
ZSOGus, as one of Moore’s grandchildren, what do you think this redevelopment means for Moore’s legacy?
GDIt brings the buildings together. As Godfrey said, the project has to strike a balance between former working studios and grounds, on the one hand, and on the other, a building that looks world class and impressive enough that a student studying art on the other side of the world would want to go visit it. It also has to maintain and preserve and future-proof my grandfather’s archives and works. We hope to welcome visitors both local and far afield, allowing them to access this.
GWYour earliest recollections of this place must be some of your most special childhood memories. So this is personal for you, and I wonder, when you see these buildings, how much of your heart is immediately taken back to your childhood recollections? You must have warm memories of these spaces—it must have been exciting as a child to run around the studios.
GDIt’s always felt odd to have what was essentially my first family home preserved for posterity. There were always people coming and going, it was never quiet—he always welcomed visitors—but it’s always felt strange to go into the house, to see the studios now as opposed to how they were. Funnily enough, the thing that has evolved most in my memory was Dane Tree House. I remember the original glass extension—before that I simply thought of it as offices and then as the Foundation grew around the house, there was a sense of, “How do we incorporate all of this into what is clearly a serious thing for the future?” And I feel like these new buildings to me almost unlock that inner conflict, if that makes sense. Before, they were buildings that meshed with childhood memories of the house, or riding around on my bicycle, whereas now they feel like things that belong to everybody, even while they’re very carefully integrated in with things I feel personally connected to.
ZSOHow do you feel the new buildings relate to the new state-of-the-art art-storage facility completed by Hugh Broughton Architects in 2011?
GWI also grew up in a hamlet, and of course you know everybody and you count your neighbors in tens and twelves. Your neighbors know about every change. Here, despite that, the truth is we’re running a major international operation, caring for thousands of works of art, tens of thousands of visitors, a whole range of activities, art-transport vehicles coming and going all the time. And yet we do our very best to be respectful neighbors. And that ethos, of being neighborly, travels through Hugh’s way of dealing with the site. The sculpture store you’re asking about is typical: it’s clad in very dark timber, in keeping with a lot of the local agricultural buildings. In this part of Hertfordshire the barns are almost black. So if you were walking across the field and saw our sculpture store in the distance, you wouldn’t immediately think it was art storage, you’d accept it as an agricultural building.
GDAnd it’s set away from the place, in an enclave.
GWYes, driving through the village within ten meters of it, you probably wouldn’t know it was there. So Hugh worked really hard to get that balance just right.
GDWhen I first met him it struck me that it must be a challenge when you’re an architect and you want to make a statement with a building, but you also have to harmonize with the surroundings. At Perry Green, too, the sculpture should be the main object that you see. It was a real accomplishment to make something so impressive and at the same time not make it too loud.
GWYour grandfather was enormously sensitive about the interrelationships between his work and architecture. I’ve read so much about the time and care he gave to making that dialogue succeed. The figure at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris—a very geometric building—brings forward a relationship between the natural form and the clearly manmade. We’re quite regularly contacted by architects or owners of Henry Moore sculptures who want to resite them, and we always take that very seriously, because I know full well how much Moore would have wrestled with such a challenge. Interestingly, Hugh had the reverse angle, in a way: the works were already here and he had to redesign the architecture next to them.
ZSOWas there a specific strategy in the new designs that enhanced the experience of the grounds and gardens, which were designed by Moore’s wife, Irina?
GWHugh absolutely understood the importance of that. In fact the building frames the view of the grounds in a very careful way. I’m still learning about the grounds and [Moore’s daughter] Mary Moore has helped me to understand them. It’s fascinating, you can almost experience the grounds as a series of different rooms. The family garden, for instance, which is immediately adjacent to [Henry and Irina Moore’s former home] Hoglands, is one thing. Then other parts around are still functioning as farmers’ fields, and there are different areas that are more meadowlike. There’s even a part of the grounds that, though it’s very beautifully laid out, feels more suited for presenting sculpture, it functions almost as a presentation space. So dealing with the grounds is quite complex in its own way.
ZSOGus, I know that Mary Moore, your mother, has helped with some of the landscaping of the grounds and with re-creating the gardens as she remembered them as a child. What are your own memories of Perry Green?
GDI actually pretty much grew up here, it really felt like home. You know, the Foundation and I are essentially siblings, we were born at the same time. There was a strict routine that allowed my grandfather to maximize his work and at the same time still manage to be a family man: we would all have breakfast and lunch in the sunroom at Hoglands and then we’d often walk to a small studio down at the side of the house, where he’d put out art supplies for me. At first it was just to play around but he often couldn’t help but want to get involved. He’d pick something up and say, “Now, look at it like this.” He would move it around because he wanted me, even from an early age, to understand that you can get into an object simply through looking at it. It’s funny how easily people look at a piece of paper or something and think it’s two-dimensional when it’s not. And of course there are funny memories. In the early 1980s the Superman movies came out, the Christopher Reeve Superman, and I was obsessed—I found myself trying to make capes and muscles with Plasticine and my grandfather couldn’t resist improving on my sense of form. There’s got to be a Henry Moore Superman buried in a drawer somewhere.
ZSOSuperman maquettes [laughs].
GDBut my most vivid memory would be Hoglands and the yellow sitting room, at least we called it the yellow sitting room. That room was where you accessed the grounds, and even still, there are all these little objects on the table that were wonderful attractions to a child but that also allowed my grandfather to talk and engage people in the history of art, sculpture, his experiences with discovering things in museums, African art. It’s wonderful that the place has managed both to remain very much how it was with these outdoor studios and at the same time grow to allow more people to come and see it.
ZSOWhat’s so wonderful about the Foundation is you can visit all the different studios Moore used. The one that I absolutely adore is the Bourne Maquette Studio, where you see all these found objects and Plasticine objects and the whole process of scaling up. It’s interesting that one of your most vivid memories is about these same objects. It really was so important, the process.
GDFor me as an adult, what you just said is probably one of the most important things I love about the Foundation. He gifted all of it so that people could see the working process as well as the work, and I think that’s such a vital resource, whether for a young artist or someone who is simply curious about him. And yes, I have fond memories of running around studios while someone was scaling up and working with large plasters, or things were framed that felt almost like alien structures.
GWI couldn’t agree more about that notion of letting people into an essentially private world. Artists are almost always quite private in their creative moments, and the Bourne Maquette Studio especially is such a brilliant example of a plausible working space. I like the delicate touches: the radio is there, and somehow it humanizes it. You can really imagine this man working away to the radio, listening to tennis or cricket or whatever. And that’s something we need to preserve, because audiences understand art better if they remember it was made by someone with a personality and a character. This place reminds them of that so well.
ZSOAbsolutely, people connect with art more when they can visualize how it was made. That clicks with them—particularly younger children, it sticks with them, and they can understand sculpture better.
GDYes, and Moore always had these little objects around him in both his living room and his studios so he could walk back into the studio and not have any sort of writer’s block, not be stuck, whether he was picking up something he’d already been working with or picking up an object to look at it anew. My grandfather had a strict routine to maximize his time. He’d have breakfast at 8.30 a.m., after which he would carve, then tea at 11 a.m., then my grandmother would send him straight back to work, a habitual nap after lunch, then work. She gave him structure so that he was free to think and create. And in the archives here there’s so much photographic evidence that documented how he worked, what he did, how the grounds were, and how his studios were. It’s so vital.
ZSOWhy do you think he was so meticulous in documenting his process?
GDIt’s completely my own opinion, but on a certain level I think he must have known very early on that he was going to pass it on.
ZSOHe did set up the Foundation during his lifetime and that relates to the idea of a legacy, and of how he wanted to be remembered. When an artist passes away, it must be incredibly difficult and complex to set up a foundation, it’s a very complicated process. So for him to do it in his lifetime meant that there were parameters already in place, and it was able to function very quickly and efficiently.
GWSince I came into this role, I have met many people who work in similar positions in artist’s foundations around the world and I feel hugely fortunate because of exactly that point, the fact that this foundation was carefully conceived. It was thought through by Henry Moore and his wife and daughter, they created it together. And it’s a very generous and complete foundation in the breadth of things we do. All of our initiatives have a strategic purpose that was carefully conceived.
ZSOThe Foundation is very active in awarding grants to artists, with more than 2,000 recipients to date. Since it was established, in 1977, it has awarded approximately £31 million in grants, which is amazing. How will the new facilities help future artists and curators, as well as students and scholars?
GWI feel very sure that the scholarship on Henry Moore is going to be supported by the new archives. We’ve always helped academics and scholars, but now, with the improved facilities and therefore better access, we’re able to help even more. Separately, through our grants program, we are able to support artists, institutions, and researchers. Actually, when you add in our curatorial expertise in the field, we can help in a third way, by steering research, providing original source material, and even possibly funding. When I joined the Foundation, one of the first things I did was look specifically at the charitable objective of the operation. It’s very clear that the Foundation was established to encourage public appreciation of the visual arts but at the same time, I’m very comfortable supporting postdoctoral research, as that does benefit public appreciation, since those people will go on to publish books and create exhibitions for the public. Part of that thinking goes all the way back to Moore’s early life in Castleford, where he felt quite starved of visual culture. So by investing literally tens of millions in supporting public exhibitions of sculpture, we’re truly giving many people opportunities that he lacked.
GDThroughout my life it has been a privilege to see my grandfather’s success and his works in big, prominent public places. I honestly don’t think anything has given me more pride than to see the support that the Foundation gives to working, living artists and sculptors, and specifically to sculpture. Nothing speaks more loudly to me than when I see “Supported by the Henry Moore Foundation” at an exhibition.
GWMoore realized quite quickly that he was part of history. He was thinking about artists before him, around him, and even after his own lifetime. He understood that continuum.
GDAnd one thing he was very clear about: no posthumous casting. I think he’d seen that happen with artists he admired, and the tremendous confusion that can arise with that practice, whether it’s done by a foundation or a family estate. He absolutely knew, from both a market point of view and an academic point of view, that there had to be clarity.
ZSOYour current exhibition, Becoming Henry Moore, focuses on the artist’s formative years, from 1914 to 1930. Why was that time period chosen as a focus for the fortieth anniversary?
GWWhen I was a new director, one of the first things I did was appoint Sebastiano Barassi the head of collections and exhibitions. Very early on we agreed that what we wanted to do was generate new knowledge, tread ground that hadn’t been trodden before. Sebastiano brought up the idea of the very early work, of focusing on the period of Moore’s slightly unlikely start in life, living in a small terrace house, one of eight children, in a mining community in West Yorkshire. He was still residing there up until 1916, and then by 1930 he’s an active participant in the European avant-garde. And during that same timeframe he went off to fight in the First World War. While this is generally known among Moore scholars, no one has ever really tried to dig out the details of how that happened.
GDThere’s one work that immediately comes to mind, the snake, that small marble piece [Snake, 1924]. Back then, he wasn’t this huge, successful artist who could walk into a marble quarry and say, “I’ll have that fabulous big cut over there.” He was going and he was getting what he could, but part of his genius was his ability to see the potential of an object. He was passionate about direct carving, and it’s fantastic to see so many direct works in stone, but I really like that there’s this snake that he found inside the stone and that had tension. I’d love to see what the actual block, which was probably a very awkward offcut, had been before.
ZSOYes, that’s a great piece in the exhibition.
GWMy favorite in the show is probably the most modest piece. It’s a tiny drawing of an old man that he made in 1921, at the Royal College, in preparation for the sculpture Head of an Old Man, which he described as his first sculpture. It’s very carefully studied but very wistfully sketched, and it’s only the size of a postcard. So much in that drawing makes you think, this is the work of a great artist. He’s an art student at the time, and this is probably one out of half a dozen that he prepared. Sadly, the sculpture doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a photograph of it in the catalogue. But there’s so much in that drawing and it feels very special.
ZSOGus, your family is involved with maintaining the display at Hoglands, the house that first brought Henry and Irina Moore to Perry Green, in 1940. Why is it important to the family to maintain the display at the house?
GDWhen my grandparents died, the house was left to the estate. After much consideration we decided that none of us would ever want to live in it—it’s literally in the middle of the grounds that are now the Foundation and we felt very strongly that the whole thing had to become one. Not just in ownership, either, but in restoring the house to how it was in my grandfather’s time—it’s so interesting to share the space where he brought together all these objects and artworks, where he could think and talk about the whole history of sculpture and surround himself with things that he loved, like African and Cycladic art. So we felt it was important to restore Hoglands—with the vision of the Foundation—to being an artist’s home in a museum sense, and to include original, real works and objects within it.
It’ll always be strange for me, though, when I walk around it—it sounds the same, smells the same, it’s a time trap. There’s always going to be a balance between having to preserve, lowering the blinds and such, but at the same time wanting people to experience it as it was. For me, the reason it works is that people can understand that this was not just where he lived but where he worked, and can see how that discipline extended through his day-to-day life.
ZSOIt definitely completes the picture—the house offers particular insights into Henry Moore. Though he was a very successful artist, it’s a modest house, and I think that’s surprising for many visitors, and endearing as well, to experience how he lived and how he operated. And even though the house is modest, there really is a treasure trove of art inside. Do you have a particular favorite from that personal collection?
GDWhen I was a child it was always the narwhal’s tusk, simply because I thought it was a unicorn’s [laughs]. But as I grew older it was the drawings, specifically a Seurat drawing. Perhaps I love the drawings because even though I’m not a great draftsman I did learn to draw from him. And he taught me the way drawing can be three-dimensional, and also the way I now see and sense art. All of that was influenced by him.
ZSOIs there a special significance in the exhibition’s focus on Moore’s formative years? For instance, do you see it as a resource for younger generations in their formative years?
GWOne of things that Henry Moore did for people was, he taught them how to look properly at things. How to look and how to see.
ZSOWhat’s next for the Foundation?
GWLots of things are coming up. Becoming Henry Moore, which was originally conceived just for Perry Green, will go on to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. That’s not something that happens very often; in fact, Henry Moore isn’t usually shown at the Henry Moore Institute. That was his own intention: he wanted that center to be dedicated to the study of sculpture in its broadest sense, not of his work. But he is a part of that story and so we’re really pleased to take this exhibition to Leeds, not least because the city of Leeds is an important part of the story. We are also working on the Collectors’ Circle—we want to build a community of people who have Henry Moores in their private collections, to inform scholarship but also to help owners know their own collections better. There’s so much in the archive—almost every sculpture Moore made we have a photographic record of, often a photograph of him making it. So as an owner of a Henry Moore, you could find out more about the history of the sculpture that you own. I think that’s really exciting, for both the collection and the Foundation.
All artwork © The Henry Moore Foundation. All images that include artworks by Henry Moore reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation. For more information, please visit henry-moore.org