Henry Moore’s Three Way Piece Number Two: Archer, better known simply as The Archer, is one of Toronto’s best known pieces of art. This is party due to Moore’s relationship to Toronto, as well as the controversy that surrounded the work.
As many of us know, Finnish architect Viljo Revell won a competition in 1958 to design Toronto’s new city hall and civic square. Revell was an admirer of Moore’s work and wanted him to design something for the square. In 1964 he travelled to Moore’s studio in England and chose The Archer.
Although mayor Philip Givens was strongly in support of the work many others were not. Some felt that the $120,000 price tag was too much for the taxpayers to burden, while others felt the work was too abstract, and the decision to install the piece with public money was eventually voted down. Givens persisted and the piece was purchased through a public subscription fund and installed in Nathan Phillips Square 1966. The issue became such a controversy that some claim Givens lost his bid for re-election in 1966 because of his support of The Archer.
Last year in The University of Toronto’s Bulletin, Art History PhD candidate Sarah Stanners noted “Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t look at the British influence of culture on Canada without looking at Henry Moore.â€
Moore was born in England in 1898 and created over 1000 sculptures during his life, many of which can be found at the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Photos and the program of the unveiling of The Archer can be found on the City of Toronto website.