Appraisal values LH sculptures at $1.6 million
By SHELLY WILKISON
Looking to make a difference in the community, students and families of Trusted Guard Martial Arts brought old newspapers to Liberty Hill Intermediate School recently and rubbed the rust off the metal sculptures, “Liberty Couple”, until the shine was restored.
In 1976, artist Sharon Corgan-Leeber sculpted metal car bumpers into the male and female “Liberty Couple” as part of the Liberty Hill International Sculpture Symposium. The month-long event, organized by the late Mel Fowler, was a celebration of art and sculpture that coincided with America’s bicentennial. The artists donated their work to the community.
Forty years later, Liberty Hill is showing a renewed interest in the sculptures, many of which are in need of cleaning and repair.
The Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which owns the art pieces and Lions Foundation Park, is hoping to relocate most of them to two acres inside the park that will be designated as the Liberty Hill International Sculpture Park.
Foundation Board President Larry Nicholson said the first step toward that goal was met in recent weeks with an appraisal that set the retail value of the sculptures and accompanying artwork at $1,675,475.
Certified Appraiser and Broker of Fine Art Suzanne C. Staley of Houston conducted the appraisal for the Foundation and the City of Liberty Hill. The appraisal, which cost $9,800, was paid for with funds provided by the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp.
The Foundation Board and city leaders are in the process of negotiating transfer of ownership of Lions Foundation Park to the City of Liberty Hill. Securing a permanent home for the sculptures and placing a monetary value on the artwork has been the focus of the discussions for the past year, and the results of an art appraisal was essential to the process.
Nicholson cautioned that while the appraisal valued the sculptures at more than $1.6 million, he expects the value to be even higher as more information about the artists and their sculptures is included.
“This is really obsolete immediately as more information is developed for each piece,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson explained that the report was needed in order for the Foundation to secure insurance for the artwork before it is relocated to the park.
In the meantime, a consultant is working with the Foundation Board to design the sculpture area that will be located on the two acres adjacent to the school. He said some of the sculptures on the campus that are displayed along a sidewalk and mounted on concrete will not be moved to the park.
Although school district officials previously requested that the artwork be relocated, Nicholson said that was no longer the case.
“I think they realized the value of having the sculptures on a school campus,” he said, adding that the school district is not responsible for maintenance of the artwork.
“We have been advised that keeping the group (of sculptures) together adds to the value,” he said.
At one time, the Board envisioned placing the sculptures at various points along the existing walking trail in the park. He said if more sculptures are created, they will be placed apart from the 1976 pieces.
Staley’s appraisal shows the value of the sculptures and plaques on the school campus at $1,632,525. The sculpture by Fowler on the grounds of the Fellowship Church annex downtown is $12,000. A sculpture at the Liberty Hill Public Library by John Van Camp donated in 2014 is valued at $10,000. Various small sculptures are valued together at $9,600. Two-dimensional works on paper were valued at $5,650, while limited edition prints of the event were valued at $5,700 for a combined value of $1,675,475.
Nicholson said that the appraiser spoke with many of the original artists as part of the research needed to set a value on each piece. Additional data will be added as it can be collected.
“She contacted them and talked with them about the pieces. Part of the value comes from what the artist has done since then (1976),” he said.
Nicholson said if the artist has continued a career in sculpting, the piece is likely to be valued higher. If the artist never created anything else as was the case for one artist who is in prison, the piece was not valued as high.
Among the most recognizable pieces are “The Guardian”, a pink limestone sculpture created by Brad J. Goldberg. It was valued at $100,000. The piece is in the shape of a giant totem that one might see on a “Native American pueblo or reservation,” Staley wrote. “The top has stacked layers of stones that appear to be wings.”
Goldberg presently resides in Dallas and has a firm that specializes in public sculptures, Staley wrote in the report.
Another recognizable piece, “Western Vision”, by Anne Friedrike Merck “features a nude woman lying on her stomach with her left leg crossed over the right one. She is holding her arms up to shield her eyes from the sun,” the report states. Staley valued the limestone piece at $50,000. Merck spent time in Italy where she met Fowler, but now lives in New York state where she is building a new art studio.
The highest valued sculpture ($275,000) is “Gateway to Encounter” by Japanese artist Masayuki Nagase. The piece is limestone and granite and is described by Staley as “a five-piece sculpture…carved with a small seat under the back end of the top. In the front part of the sculpture, there is a rectangular piece of rock that has a sloping area which can also be used for seating.”
She said Nagase now lives in San Francisco and does large-scale sculpture works. He is currently working in Rapid City, South Dakota, on a sculpture commissioned by the City entitled “Passage of Wind and Water”. He began the project in 2013 and it will be complete next year.
Two pieces are valued at $200,000 — the two-part limestone and rope sculpture “Tirez Moi De La” by French artist Jean Paul Philippe and “Frozen Motion” by Dieter Hastenteufel. “Frozen Motion” is a slab of limestone that juts up against multiple sheets of Corten steel.
Staley said Philippe studied painting at the Beaux Arts of Paris from 1961-1965. His website shows large sculptures in various locations around the world. She noted that the sculpture “Tirez Moi De La”, the title of which translates from French to “Pull me from the…”, needs to be cleaned and has some graffiti.
Hastenteufel was born in Switzerland studied sculpture and ceramic-mural in Germany. He now lives in Flesherton, Ontario. Staley noted that the steel in the sculpture is shedding rust and the concrete slab is stained as a result.
“Liberty Couple”, which was cleaned by the martial arts students, was valued at $30,000. Nicholson said most of the sculptures need to be cleaned after years of exposure.
“Cleaning is an interesting thing,” he said. “I’m not talking about the natural aging process, but graffiti needs to be removed. Don’t use harsh soaps, just water, nothing should be scrubbed.”
Nicholson said the martial arts students rubbed the metal sculptures with newspapers to remove the rust. No chemicals or cleaners were used.
“It took off the surface rust and restored the shine,” he said, adding that Foundation Board members supervised the process.
Nicholson said creating a design for the layout of the new sculpture park is the next step. Before the artwork is relocated, the Board will shop for insurance.
“These options have to be nailed down before we transfer the whole park to the City,” he said, adding that a consultant is working on the design and collecting input from the art community.
While there is still no deadline for the park’s transfer of ownership and no official vote has been taken by the Foundation Board, Nicholson said there is consensus that “the park is better served by having a public entity run it. We are moving forward and solving some questions we still have.”