Columbia University students have had a rather surprising reaction to the proposed installation of a Henry Moore statue outside the university. The sculpture, Reclining Figure, has had more than 1,000 students sign a petition in reaction to it; and according to the Columbia Spectator, calling it a “hideous sculpture.”

The petition states that: “the sculpture in front of Butler Library will disrupt an otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape.” Over 200 have signed up to protest what a Facebook event invite calls Moore’s “ugly, grotesque statue.” Chris Bolton, one of the creators of the event, says to his peers, “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE sign this petition to keep this gargantuan metal garbage heap off of our lawn.”

It seems the unexpected backlash towards Henry Moore’s smooth, inoffensive lines had already begun before this protest, the Spectator having published Statue of Limitations, an op-ed that says:

“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.” And concludes: “We recognize that Reclining Figure may already be a done deal. The foundation has been dug, the announcement made, albeit quietly. But as we write, Reclining Figure is not yet moored in front of our beloved Butler. We cling to some hope that it’s not too late—and that Alma Mater won’t have to stare at that ugly hunk of metal for the rest of goddamn time.”

The donors of Reclining Figure are David and Laura Finn (David is co-founder of Ruder Finn, the art PR agency). A post on an administration blog stated, “The donation of this sculpture was accepted by the Committee on Art Properties and University administration over twenty years ago, with the permanent location approved more recently.”

The reaction to the statue’s placement may have more to do with the evident shortage of green space already available for students outside on the campus, rather than a specific attack on the aesthetics on Henry Moore; but it’s unlikely David and Laura Finn had imagined this to be the reaction when they donated the statue, worth around $19m

(Fortunately, there are probably plenty of other green spaces that would welcome the bronze, abstract figure if the students get their way.)

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