Pupils protest against sale of school’s sculptures

Barbara Hepworth's granddaughter Dr Sophie Bowness.
Barbara Hepworth's granddaughter Dr Sophie Bowness.

A campaign to prevent two sculptures by Barbara Hepworth being auctioned by her old Wakefield school is gathering momentum amid accusations the sale will undermine the world-renowned artist’s legacy.

Sixth form pupils Alishah Arshid and Eleanor Braithwaite, both 18, from Wakefield Girls’ High School, claimed there is no justification “for selling off the school’s inheritance”.

They hope to persuade the headteacher and governors to think again with an online petition on change.org, which already has more than 270 signatures.

There has been a backlash since plans were revealed to sell Quiet Form and Forms in Movement (Galliard) to fund new bursaries after the price of insuring the works, which could be worth £1m, rocketed.

The school’s Parent and School Association paid for the costs. Miss Arshid said: “People at school, students, parents, old girls, are all very interested and bothered by the decision. We are very aware of Barbara Hepworth’s contribution to our school and the world of art in general and we do feel it does show a disregard for her legacy.”

A spokesperson for the school’s governors said: “In her autobiography, Dame Barbara Hepworth acknowledged both the importance of her education at Wakefield Girls’ High School and the key role of bursaries throughout. It is important to remember that it was the quality of the teaching and pastoral care at the school, rather than any art collection, that inspired her and gave her the opportunities that had a key formative effect on her career and success.

“Even greater opportunities are offered today because of our longstanding commitment to bursaries and our continued investment in the school.The Governors believe that the proceeds from the sculptures’ sale can be used to allow other local young women the opportunity to follow in Hepworth’s footsteps.

“As a school we are immensely proud to have played a part in Barbara Hepworth’s life, but our relationship is deeper than these two wonderful sculptures.

“We believe we can best honour in the long term the memory of our many illustrious alumnae including Dame Barbara Hepworth, Dame Marjorie Williamson, and other key figures in the history of the school such as Headmistress Margaret Knott by continuing to offer opportunities for current and future generations of girls.

“We will of course continue to celebrate Hepworth in a number of other ways, including the name of our Art building, our annual series of Hepworth Lectures, gallery visits and the treasury of documents and photographs on display at the school.

“The dramatic rise in the value of Hepworth’s work since they were bought by the School means that their associated insurance and security cost have grown exponentially and in recent years we have had to store them securely off-site. As a charity our aims and objectives are clearly set out, and our over-riding concern has to be to provide the best possible education for our students.

“It is therefore hard to justify devoting valuable limited school resources to keeping the works on display, nor can we just give them away to another charity. Their sale will facilitate the start of many more life changing journey’s at Wakefield Girls’ High School.”