The Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns the sculpture, has formally agreed to loan it to City of Wolverhampton Council for display in the city’s art gallery.
Rock Form will take pride of place in the gallery atrium until its proposed return to its former home in the Mander Shopping Centre.
Today’s announcement ends months of speculation surrounding the future of the popular sculpture. Rock Form had previously been housed in the Mander Centre for 47 years until it was removed last year ahead of a planned refurbishment when the centre was put up for sale.
The agreement between RBS and the council means that the sculpture will be displayed in the art gallery while the Mander Centre, which is now owned by Benson Elliot, is refurbished. It is expected that the refurbishment will be completed by the end of 2017. After the works are completed, RBS has agreed with Benson Elliot that Rock Form will be available for display at the Mander Centre.
Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for city economy, heralded today’s announcement.
He said: “Rock Form is coming home. This sculpture belongs in Wolverhampton and I am thrilled that we’ve reached an agreement with RBS to loan it to the art gallery. It will be back on public display in the city, just as it was for almost 50 years before it left last year.
“I am very pleased that RBS have honoured their commitment to return Rock Form to Wolverhampton. The views of Wolverhampton people, supported by the city council, have been heard. I would like to pay tribute to the campaigners who worked tirelessly to ensure the sculpture remained in Wolverhampton.”
Barbara Hepworth created Rock Form in 1964 and the piece is cast in bronze. It is one of six similar castings – the others are held in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh County Hall, Truro, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Association for Public Art in Philadelphia and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.
Hepworth is considered one of the most significant sculptors of modern times. Her work is internationally famous and during the 1950s and 60s she was one of the most successful artists in the world.
The sculpture was unveiled during the opening ceremony of the Mander Centre in 1968 having been donated by the Mander family.
Tate Britain in London is currently holding a major Hepworth exhibition which has inspired a renewed interest in her work.