Monumental bronze sculpture unveiled at University of Leicester

Monumental bronze sculpture unveiled at University of LeicesterFLIGHT is a major bronze work by sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld OBE, one of Britain's leading contemporary sculptors working in marble and bronze.

It has been installed at the entrance to the University’s David Wilson Library – and is intended to symbolise the legacy of the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Robert Burgess who retires in September after 15 years’ distinguished service as the longest serving Vice-Chancellor in the University’s history.

Professor Burgess said: “The University of Leicester is delighted with Helaine Blumenfeld’s sculpture Flight as an addition to its collection. It symbolises aspiration, energy and enthusiasm. It is at the heart of the University and will give pleasure to many people visiting the University’s David Wilson Library.”

Dr Blumenfeld made the piece in 2011 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the University’s successful Sculpture in the Garden exhibitions – which she helped establish with Professor Burgess.

The 3.2 metre-tall sculpture has returned to Leicester after a prestigious installation at Salisbury Cathedral for Dr Blumenfeld’s Messenger of the Spirit exhibition last year.

Dr Blumenfeld was born and grew up in the USA, completing her PhD at Columbia University in 1964. In her twenties, she worked in Paris before moving to Italy.

Since the 1970s, she has lived and worked in Britain, and has exhibited all around the UK, Europe and USA for more than four decades.

Dr Blumenfeld has been a close friend to the University. In 1990, the University commissioned SOULS, a two-part, 3.3m high bronze sculpture - which was prominently sited on the lawn in front of the Fielding Johnson Building.

In 2002, the University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters - and in the same year, Professor Sir Robert Burgess and Dr Blumenfeld introduced the first Sculpture in the Garden show.

In 2008, a bronze sculpture by Dr Blumenfeld called SHADOW FIGURES: DIALOGUE was donated by the University’s benefactor and Distinguished Honorary Fellow, Dr Frank May and his wife Katherine. The sculpture is displayed on the ground floor of the new David Wilson Library.

Dr Blumenfeld was elected Vice-President of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (2004–2009) and in 2007 she became the first and only female winner of the prestigious International Sculpture Prize, ‘Pietrasanta e la Versilia nel Mondo’.

In July 2011 she was one of the few non-British artists ever to have been awarded an Honorary OBE for her outstanding contribution to art.

Dr Blumenfeld said: “With FLIGHT I wanted to simplify the human form to its absolute essence and to create a sense of the merging of physical and spiritual presence.

“FLIGHT is about reaching upwards, about aspiration, about the existence of a higher realm of being. I am very pleased to have FLIGHT standing at the entrance to the David Wilson Library.

“It seems not only a beacon welcoming one into the library, but more important, a symbol of the spirit that has energized the University of Leicester particularly in the years that Professor Sir Robert Burgess has been Vice-Chancellor.”

And this is certainly not the first time Dr Blumenfeld has exhibited her work outdoors. She has spent most of the last ten years doing public work, with much of her work accessible to all in colleges, hotels and city centres. She believes that sculptures can re-energise communities.

Image: The dimensions of FLIGHT are 320 h x 110 x 110 cm. It weighs approx. 940 kg