Never-Before-Seen Henry Moore Pieces on Display at Burberry's Runway Show

Moore's "Mother and Child"

By Jane Keltner de Valle, Architectural Digest

For Christopher Bailey, the chief creative and chief executive officer of Burberry, the work of British artist Henry Moore has always loomed large—both metaphorically and literally. Growing up in Yorkshire, England, Bailey would often visit a nearby sculpture park, where Moore’s bronzes held court. “It was the most magnificent space filled with different sculptures, and Henry Moore was a dominant figure amongst them,” he says. “As I was working on this collection, I started to explore more sculptural shapes, which just immediately took me to my childhood passion.”

[post_ads]He is bringing that inspiration to the public through his latest runway show for Burberry, which includes an ambitious exhibition of Moore’s work. Spanning two floors at Burberry’s Makers House in London’s Soho neighborhood, the exhibit will be open to the public for a week following the fashion show. It includes over 40 Moore sculptures, as well as a rare glimpse into the private workings of the late British artist. His sketchbooks, maquettes, and the butcher’s apron he worked in, for example, will also be on display.

Henry Moore's "Mother and Child" sculpture at Burberry's Makers House in London

Burberry has a long history of celebrating English talent. Many of its fashions, including those iconic trench coats, are made in England. It casts all of its campaigns with British faces, from Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to Sienna Miller and Tom Sturridge. And, through its blockbuster shows, it pays tribute to some of the nation’s great creatives: Take last season’s homage to decorator and gardener Nancy Lancaster, which anointed the Makers House space. But the Moore connection is uncanny. 
As Bailey researched the life and work of the 20th-century sculptor, he discovered that Moore was born in the same town—Castleford—where Burberry has been making its trenches for decades. Additionally, one of the big foundries Moore used was located in Basingstoke, where Thomas Burberry first established his business. (To close out the triangle, the town Bailey was born in neighbors Castleford.) “The whole thing is just bonkers,” says Bailey.

Another happy coincidence: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Henry Moore Foundation. The exhibition, titled "Henry Moore: Inspiration & Process," will be on view at Burberry’s Makers House from February 21 to 27. It will also include various workshop events, such as printmaking demonstrations.

The runway set before guests arrive

To learn about the makings of this collaboration, the scale of the exhibition, and his own personal art-collecting tendencies, I chatted with Bailey before the show.

Burberry has a long history of celebrating British artisans and artists. How do you go about choosing who to tap?

It’s a very organic process. It’s almost not a choice, it’s more of a feeling. For example, this season I’ve been working with the Henry Moore Foundation, and that really came from my everlasting love for Henry Moore that started many moons ago when I was a kid. I think in certain moments some things resonate more. As I was working on this collection, I started to explore more sculptural shapes, which just immediately took me to my childhood passion. I got in touch with the Henry Moore Foundation to look at some of the things that are not on public display, the things that were more private to Henry Moore and his way of working, and one thing led to another. We decided it would be wonderful for us to reflect the inspiration behind the collection, so we started working on the idea of an exhibition that went alongside the show.

Will the exhibition include any of these more personal things that the public hasn’t been privy to before?

Yes. We are incredibly privileged that the foundation, alongside Mary Moore, who is Henry Moore’s daughter, has been really generous, collaborative, and open about us exhibiting things that people will never have seen—quite personal things of Henry Moore’s. There are some of his maquettes. We’re also sharing some of his sketchbooks, as well as things that inspired him. He was someone that collected things he found, whether that was a shell or a stone or something from the environment that he then used as influence for his work. What we didn’t want to do is do an exhibition that was just finished works, and I don’t mean that in a demeaning way at all. But because our research took us down his research and his processes, we wanted to reflect that and not just show the final pieces. The exhibition is really a combination of work in progress, of process, and of influence, as well as the finished pieces.

Moore's "Mother Child: Block Seat" on view at the runway show

How specifically has his work inspired the Burberry collection this season?

The inspiration definitely came from the shapes, the forms, and the construction, but it also came from some quite human ways of looking at his work, quite personal things. He had this beautiful studio that had a huge glass window onto a field. In the field were some his sculptures, but there were also sheep, and if Moore tapped on the window, the sheep would congregate around it. He started drawing them and did the most beautiful illustrations. There are bits of sheep wool all over the environment there. It just got us thinking about natural shearlings because that was such a part of the way he worked and the environment that he was in every day.
A lot of his processes included making maquettes with polished iron that he would basically shave, and then he used to etch into bronze, stone, marble, or wood. It got me working on this idea of texture. When sculptures are in big landscapes, you often look at them from a distance, but if you get up close to those works and then if you get behind those processes, there’s actually an enormous amount of texture.

The show finale features all of the models wearing capes. What was the inspiration for that, and how do the capes tie back to Henry Moore, or do they?

It was almost a personal study of form. One thing that is so prevalent to me when I look at Henry Moore’s work is the strength of the upper torso. It was always contorted; it’s very present. It’s funny because it reflects the trench coat in so many ways. All the detail of a trench is at the top—the collar, the latch under the collar, the gun flaps at the front, and the storm flap at the back—so that kind of shoulder and cape silhouette is something that is very strong in our heritage. It’s also kind of ironic that [Moore] was born in Castleford, which is where we make our trench coats, historically, always have done. There are really odd parallels between Burberry, our history and heritage, and this great man. So I started working on this quite personal project exploring shape, form, texture, and materials, but only focused on the shoulder, and that sort of became the cape project. We’ve got two sides to the show: One side is this collection that can be bought immediately, and then at the very end of the show, we have these capes which are made-to-order and more like couture one-off pieces than ready-to-wear.

The Portrait Studio where guests can capture themselves inside the set inspired by the artists' studio

What was it like visiting Moore’s studio?

The studio is in a place called Perry Green, about an hour outside London. It’s incredible because he almost created his own little world there. His house that he shared with his wife and daughter is there. But there were quite a lot of grounds, and he kept building studios and different places to work. Some were permanent structures and others temporary. It’s a very soulful place, a place where you can easily get lost.

What was the process of translating his work and his work spaces into Makers House?

[post_ads]It was really a conversation with his daughter and the team that runs the foundation. For example, he often wore a butcher’s apron when he worked, so I asked the team at the foundation, did they still have these butcher’s aprons? Did they have any photographs in their archives? They would send me examples, and that really led to how we would build the exhibition. Much of it is the things that I was influenced by as I was going through my process. It became a question of, Are the shells that he found on that beach that we looked at for the shape of this jacket something that you would consider sharing? I know it’s never been shown ever before and I know it was a very personal thing for him. It was a very organic process. Then I also asked myself, how many of those things can we show in the right way? The last thing I want to do is not create the right environment for these beautiful, special things.

The exhibition is spread across two floors. How did you organize the space?

The ground floor will be where we do the show and where we will exhibit the finished pieces. Henry Moore’s sculptures will be there, and then post-show, we will exhibit our collection there as well. We’ve created a huge tent space over [what was the sculpture garden last season]. We’ve opened up the whole of the ground floor, taken out the central staircase, and put in these sculptural formed circular staircases. They’re made of wood, but they look like bronze. So it’s a very, very different environment than last season. It’s more raw.

The Burberry show set with Moore sculpture on display

Upstairs, we will exhibit the working processes and influences—Henry Moore’s working models and maquettes; found objects that he got inspiration from; his sketchbooks; old films of him talking about the way he thinks about art, creativity, form, sculpture; and personal films with his family, so that you start to get a feeling of the personality and character behind this iconic figure. Just behind that, we have a space where you can see all of the influences that we had and how we translated them: our sketchbooks, our fabric development, our photographs of fittings. In terms of the design of the upstairs, we tried to reflect one of his most important working studios, which was all wood planked.

How closely does it mirror his actual studio?

It’s supposed to give you a sense of his working space. It’s certainly not a pastiche or copy of it, but hopefully it is evocative of a space he felt comfortable in. We worked closely with the foundation to understand what it was about certain materials, colors, and proportions that were important to him. For example, for the plinth that some of the finished pieces are on, we wanted a specific gray that he felt was the best gray to really show the form in the best way.

Do you have any Henry Moore sculptures in your personal art collection?

I do not, sadly. I need a bigger garden!

What art do you collect in your homes?

He’s definitely someone that would fit very well for what I love and what we collect. It really is 20th-century British and Irish art. I love a lot of the work by the Bloomsbury artists. I love Stanley Spencer. I love David Hockney. One day I would very much love to own a Henry Moore, but I’m not sure when that might be.

This exhibition is such a gift that you’re giving to the public.

I mean, we feel incredibly lucky. I get very excited about this idea of getting behind the design. I think the story of where it came from is as important and interesting as the final product. And I think it resonates more when you own it.

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Juicy: Never-Before-Seen Henry Moore Pieces on Display at Burberry's Runway Show
Never-Before-Seen Henry Moore Pieces on Display at Burberry's Runway Show
The fashion brand and artist have more in common than British heritage
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