Helaine Blumenfeld – Two Sides of a Woman
The first time that the ‘Two sides of a Woman’ sculpture was seen in Coventry was at a sculpture exhibition at the Whitefriars Monastery. It was due to Dr. Tim Threlfall, Head of Sculpture at the Coventry Art College at Lanchester Polytechnic, who had the idea of making Whitefriars into a Sculpture Centre for the Midlands.
Margret Rylett,the City Archaeologist, was very keen that Whitefriars should be reopened after closing in the 1970’s as part of the City Council cuts. With the approval and support of David John, the Head of City Arts and Museums, Coventry Leisure Services, they got Tim Threlfall to first have his art students put on an end of year exhibition.
But Tim knew that to make the exhibition a great success he needed a big name to exhibit. He was helped by Holgar Brassch, Director of the Leinster Gallery, London who had close contacts with Helaine Blumenfeld. She had only just finished a joint exhibition with Henry Moore in the Alex Rosenbery Gallery, New York, in February and March 1985.
Though Helaine had been born in America, in 1942, she had become a British citizen and was one of Britain’s leading contemporary sculptors working in marble and bronze. She was being hailed as ‘the heir to Moore’ and her work as ‘the Moore’s of the future’. This was just the type of artist they were looking for and with the help of the Arts Council of Great Britain, supported by Citibank N.A., the exhibition was shown at the Coventry Whitefriars from November 1985 to January 1986. With free admission it was open every day from Monday to Saturday. It was a great success and got good reviews, including the Times Newspaper.
The tradition of any ‘one person’ exhibition is that the gallery would purchase one or more of the works for its collection. The Cty Council, through the Leisure Services Committee, chose the ‘Two sides to a woman’ and two bronze casts made from the plaster Maquette.
One bronze cast was for Belgrade Square (in the notes it said it was for a fountain) and the other bronze cast was for the Lincoln Centre in New York. (Having two cast would have made it a bit cheaper).
When first displayed in Belgrade Square it was on a square plinth near the main door to the Belgrade Theatre on the Corporation Street side. But was moved to it’s present position when the square was refurbished and the old fountain was replaced with the new water feature, although the statue was not used in the water feature. It is now in a flower bed surrounded by plants that are starting to grow tall and hiding it. If you look at the Lincoln Centre photograph you will see it looks better for being uncluttered.
Belgrade Square where the statue was first displayed.
Grounds of the Lincoln Centre, New York, the other ‘Two Sides of a Woman’.
Helaine Blumenfeld explored the theme of woman many times, first woman as part of a family, related to a man, dependent, whilst still setting her independence, her essential need for individuality. In the present piece ‘ two sides of a woman’ her views had changed. One side of the sculpture is very sensual, even erotic, although abstract it’s clearly a female form. The other side is complex and convoluted, going beyond the notion of woman. Helaine said “its about having and giving, about keeping and letting go, about physicality and spirituality, about the dilemma which confronts every creative woman”.
Helaine Blumenfeld still works prolifically producing large sculptures, but now she now has a team of very skilled Italian craftsmen to help her create larger work from her original plaster or clay models into fine Italian Marble statues or bronzes.
There is more information about Helaine Blumenfeld and her sculpture on her website here.