Henry Moore's reclining statue fetches £23.4m at Sotheby's auction

  • The moment the sculpture sold at auction in New York

A sculpture that was once branded a "monstrosity" by critics and targeted by vandals has sold for more than £23million at auction.

Henry Moore's bronze statue of a reclining, semi-abstract figure was first revealed at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was considered by the Castleford-born artist, who studied at Leeds Art College, to be one his finest.

It was then offered on long-term loan to Leeds City Council, but was the subject of a huge row over its artistic merits. In 1953, it was vandalised with blue paint.

Henry Moore was from Castleford in West Yorkshire Credit: PA

Oliver Barker, chair of Sotheby's Europe, said the work was among the best sculptures of the 20th century.

"It is a very innovative work which was completely in tune with the mood of postwar London," he said.

"All great art often divides crowds. All great art provokes. Since then it has just become more and more celebrated."

It is the only cast Moore held back for his own personal collection until it was acquired by the present owner in 2001.

It was billed as one of the "highlights" of Sotheby's flagship November art sale in New York.

Estimated to reach a price tag of $30-40million (£27-36m), the bidding started at £22m and eventually ended at £23,407,313 via a telephone bid.

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