Would You Protest This Sculpture?

1,200 Columbia students have signed a petition condemning Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure” (1969-1970) sculpture, soon to be installed in front of the school’s Butler Library, as the second or third -worst thing a sculpture can be—i.e., “hideous.”


The petition is titled “Stop the Statue: Protecting the Visual Integrity of Columbia’s South Field.” Keep on fighting the good fight, you guys! Definitely don’t ever stop! One 19-year-old told the New York Times that the sculpture “interrupts the architectural harmony” of the space. Another student told the Times that it looked “kind of evil.” Damn!

In a beautiful demonstration of bone-dry shade, The Guardian writes:

A historic six-day campus occupation at Columbia University in 1968 saw 700 people arrested and pushed the school to cut ties with institutions supporting the Vietnam war.

More than four decades later, 1,200 Columbia students are fighting a different sort of battle: one against the placement of a “hideous” Henry Moore sculpture that they say looks like “a poorly formed pterodactyl”.


Henry Moore Foundation director Godfrey Worsdale told The Guardian that “The activity at Columbia opens up a debate that I feel sure Henry Moore would have been very interested in,” as “He spoke often about the relationship between art and architecture and the challenges of bringing biomorphic and geometric forms into dialogue with one another.”

The Columbia Spectator op-ed featuring the pterodactyl description is titled “Statue of Limitations” and also describes the sculpture as “a dying mantis,” which actually sounds like a very cool subject for a sculpture. It reads:

The bronze monument, titled Reclining Figure, was sculpted by the noted English artist Henry Moore—presumably after he woke up from a terrible nightmare. As both inheritors and wards of our beautiful campus, we object to this desecration of our home. We also condemn the administration’s surreptitious launch of this offensive project.

The writers of this seething denunciation took umbrage with the fact that the administration did not invite student discussion into the sculpture’s placement, and framed being forced to walk past an aesthetically controversial sculpture as “a war on our spirit”:

Students at Columbia often speak of a “war on fun.” But this latest salvo from the administration crosses a solemn line—a war on our spirit. Butler may be brick and mortar, but the library also represents an idea. Its façade stands tall, watching over generations of Columbians, testifying to the enduring influence of humanity’s greatest thinkers.

Indeed, for many of us, Butler Library is synonymous with Columbia itself. Moore’s monstrosity besmirches our library, our athenaeum, with its arrogant middle finger to the world.


Wow! Makes you really, really think. Line crossed...middle fingers...metaphorical but not at all literal wars...yes. Rage on against the oppressive machine of Art You Don’t Like, my young soldiers of the mind!

And here’s my thing: maybe I’m just another postgrad drone with her eyes ripped out by the sharp claws of capitalism, but uh, what is so bad about this sculpture, anyway? Doesn’t it look like any other big, bronze, sort of forgettable sculpture on a college campus?


Agree? Disagree? Would you stand up and fight for your right to visual integrity on a college campus?

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.

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I like it. More importantly, I hate the students.