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£80,000 sculpture valuation stuns TV show's audience

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

  • Barbara Hepwrth sculpture that sits on the head teacher's desk at St Ives School.

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A SCULPTURE that normally sits on a St Ives head teacher's desk has been branded "the most expensive paperweight in the world" after Antiques Roadshow experts valued it at £80,000.

St Ives School librarian Jan Wardman was shown beaming at the news as she presented the bronze Barbara Hepworth work to experts on the popular BBC TV programme on Sunday.

And after the show St Ives School head David Harris revealed the sculpture was originally used by the school as a house prize when students performed well.

Tourists still flock to St Ives today to see Barbara Hepworth's large bronze Modernist sculptures in the Hepworth Memorial Garden.

Another sits outside the Guildhall, home to St Ives Town Council and the Visitor Information Centre.

But this smaller example of her work is not widely known and caused raised eyebrows when the Antiques Roadshow rolled into Falmouth.

A visibly excited roadshow expert Rupert Maas said: "It's by Barbara Hepworth. This is English Modernism, you know, you cannot confuse it with anything else. It is very tactile and made of bronze. It's worth £60,000 to £80,000. And it's a very important thing. It's a seriously exciting find."

The valuation has come as a surprise to the school – but isn't completely shocking.

David Harris said: "It's sitting on my desk so it's probably the most expensive paperweight in the world.

"We have links to the art scene because we live and work in St Ives so we knew it was valuable but we'd not had it valued. We didn't know it was that valuable.

"Not that it is of any consequence because it's the school's and it will remain the school's. It's a fabulous piece of work and it's something which we do treasure."

Mr Harris took the piece, called Oval Form, into the school's staff briefing on Monday morning to remind teachers what it looked like but it normally lives on his desk.

The artist was a governor at the school many years ago and gave Oval Form as a gift.

It was used as a prize for the house that got the most academic merits each term.

Mr Harris said: "It's not something we let out of our sight now."

The school, which has named its houses after St Ives artists, is now considering creating imitations of the original. Mr Harris said: "We have a 3-D printer and with it you can make anything so we are considering making some smaller imitations as school prizes which would be unique to St Ives. We wouldn't be making them out of bronze, though."

The school has quite an art collection, with two Leonard Fuller paintings and a Hyman Segal sculpture as well as the Hepworth.

Mr Harris said he had expected the piece to be valued in the tens of thousands but not quite as high as £80,000.

He said: "The guy on Antiques Roadshow said it will be in the upper reaches because it's such a beautiful domestic piece. For them it was a significant find. It did look lovely on the television with the light catching it. It is beautiful and a very tactile piece."

Viewers saw Mr Maas date the piece to 1965.

He said: "There's a lovely sense to it and turning it around is quite fun because it looks completely different from all angles. It's easy to forget that here in Cornwall we're actually at the cutting edge of Modernism really. Barbara Hepworth was really at the forefront of British Modernism."

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