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50 Years of 'Winged Figure'

05 Sep 2013

John Lewis Oxford and The Hepworth Wakefield celebrate 50 Years of 'Winged Figure'.

This year John Lewis’s flagship branch, which has had a site on Oxford Street for almost 150 years, is delighted to be celebrating 50 years since the installation of Winged Figure by acclaimed British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, in partnership with The Hepworth Wakefield.

In 1961 John Lewis commissioned the Yorkshire-born artist to create a work that evoked common interest and ownership. Over the past 50 years the artwork has become part of the Oxford Street landscape, since it was unveiled to the public in 1963.  Placed 13 feet above the busy cross-section between Holles Street and Oxford Street, it is estimated that the sculpture is seen by 200 million people a year.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Winged Figure, the branch has undertaken a programme of activities throughout 2013.  This began with a recently completed restoration project, which has helped to return the sculpture to its former glory, and continues with in-store celebrations to be enjoyed by customers and art-lovers alike.

From Tuesday 2 September, the original Winged Figure I, 1957 by Barbara Hepworth will be on display for eight weeks in the Brasserie on the 3rd floor.  This is the smaller version of the sculpture that Hepworth proposed to enlarge for the John Lewis commission.  Kindly on loan to John Lewis by The Hepworth Wakefield, it offers customers the chance to see Hepworth’s iconic design close-up.

A unique window display on Oxford Street will showcase archive material that will be on display to the public for the first time. The archive material illuminates the story behind the John Lewis commission of Hepworth’s Winged Figure, from the challenges faced in transporting the six metre high sculpture through the cobbled streets of St Ives on its journey to London’s Oxford Street, to reproductions of old photographs and letters written by Hepworth and John Lewis describing the commission.

A pop-up exhibition of three original graphic prints by Barbara Hepworth will also be on display in the flagship’s third floor Brasserie.  These original graphic prints are kindly on loan exclusively to John Lewis Oxford Street from The Hepworth Wakefield, the prints are part of a new display Hepworth: Graphic Prints that is on show until early 2014.

Simon Fowler, managing director of John Lewis Oxford Street said: “We are proud of our heritage and as we approach our 150th anniversary celebrations it is timely that we celebrate Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure which has so strikingly adorned the exterior of our flagship store for the past 50 years.  Commissioned shortly after the Second World War, it represents an important moment in our history, with the final design chosen to echo the Partnership’s associations with resurgence and aspiration, qualities which we continue to uphold today.”

Sophie Bowness, Barbara Hepworth’s granddaughter, said: “I’m delighted that John Lewis is celebrating Hepworth’s Winged Figure and helping people to learn the story of this iconic work.  I know that my grandmother was extremely proud of this remarkable sculpture and it’s wonderful to see it now fully restored on the exterior of the Oxford Street store.”

Barbara Hepworth, sculptor, in 1963 said: “I think one of our universal dreams is to move in air and water without the resistance of our human legs. I wanted to evoke this sense of freedom.  If the Winged Figure in Oxford Street gives people a sense of being airborne in rain and sunlight and nightlight I will be very happy.  It is a project I have long wished to fulfil and this site with its wonderful oblique wall was quite perfect.”

PHOTO: Barbara Hepworth
Winged Figure
Aluminium with aluminium rods and Isopon
587.5 x 254 x 159.5 cm
Presented by the artist’s daughters, Rachel Kidd and Sarah Bowness, through the Trustees of the Barbara Hepworth Estate and the Art Fund