Fragments of sculpture in Momart blaze are salvaged by artist's son

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Fragments of a sculpture feared destroyed in the warehouse fire that incinerated some of Britain's most famous contemporary art have been salvaged from the ruins by the artist's son.

Fragments of a sculpture feared destroyed in the warehouse fire that incinerated some of Britain's most famous contemporary art have been salvaged from the ruins by the artist's son.

Parts of a bronze triptych by the sculptor William Redgrave were found in the burnt-out wreck of the Momart warehouse in east London.

Chris Redgrave, a 26-year-old photographer, persuaded Momart's owners to let him search for the work, The Event, which was his father's most famous sculpture. About a third of the work, first exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts in 1966, was salvaged. Some pieces were virtually unscarred by the blaze, while others melted in the heat.

The fragments are probably the only artworks to have survived the inferno on 24 May, that destroyed, among others, 50 works by Patrick Heron, and Tracey Emin's tent.

The Redgrave family, which includes seven children from the sculptor's three marriages, are planning to put the surviving pieces on display. But Chris fears that he may have missed some fragments which could have ended up in an artwork created from fire debris with the support of Uri Geller. "I'm a bit angry with people like Uri Geller who have no connection with [the fire], but are opportunistic. I find it very distressing," Chris said.

Redgrave, the son of an Essex builder, was a BBC sound engineer and wartime Blitz warden before concentrating on his art.

He became a friend of Francis Bacon, who encouraged him to turn from painting to sculpture, and part of the St Ives community of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. His bronze sculptures included busts of Laurence Olivier, which are currently on display at the National Theatre, and of the conductor Adrian Boult, as well as stars such as Dame Diana Rigg and the boxer Henry Cooper, who remains a fan.

Many of Redgrave's friends acted as models for the dozens of figures that comprised The Event, a giant work measuring almost two metres by four.

Chris Redgrave said yesterday that, for him, the sadness of the Momart fire was that it left little chance of a re-assessment of the work of his father, who died aged 82 in 1986. At the height of his fame, it was abstract art, not figurative sculpture in the mould of Rodin, that ruled.

"Dad wasn't fashionable. People reacted against his work but he was well ahead of his time."

Bevis Hillier, the critic and writer who was a friend of Redgrave's, said: "In any other period of history - the Pre-Raphaelites, the Renaissance, even now when representation is coming back into favour - he would have been acclaimed. He should have been acclaimed and he will be acclaimed."

Jenny Pearson, Redgrave's former girlfriend who posed for the sculpture and who is now storing the fragments, said: "The thing about bronze is it's supposed to be indestructible. That's why it's hard to get your head around [the loss]."

Comments