When Rachael Long was approached to make a contribution to the Wells Heritage Art Trail and heard the story of the Light Boat Horses, she and the Habour Master visualised her horse on the shores of the harbour at Wells next the Sea. However all the works exhibited in the Art Trail were for sale and it was possible the horse might find a permanent home elsewhere.
Surprisingly the Light Boat Horse didn't sell during the art trail exhibition period (in spite of its beauty) and in October 2018 it had to be removed from the shore to protect it from the harsh winter weather. Below is a wonderful painting of Wells next the Sea in winter by British artist Jenny Hirst so that you get some idea how torrid the conditions can become- even for a metal horse!
In the meantime the locals had fallen in love with the horse. And as we know Public Opinion is a powerful force but all too often we hear and see this ground swell for negative reasons: often political of course but also associated with the art world. You will be learning about an example of the latter tomorrow.
Why did the locals fall in love with the horse? The easy answer is that most people love horses. But it is more complicated than that. The love of an art work for me (and I believe for most of the public) must pass the test of Congruence and Integrity: tested first within the art piece itself and then tested against the final resting place for the sculpture. Congruence demands harmony and integrity authenticates the work as being honest.
But the Congruence/Integrity test must also consider the environment where the work will be exhibited. For me a work of art only receives full marks if it is in harmony with its environment and supports the provenance of the inspiration. As horses are closely associated with beaches there is no problem with the sculpture being compatible with its environment. People ride horses up and down beaches all the time; the race horses regularly go for a swim in the sea. But we must question why is the Light Boat Horse
in a particular/special place? What is the narrative that accompanies this position? You can't just place a sculpture anywhere- though there are many examples where this has happened. It just doesn't look right and undermines the integrity of the work and the artist's reputation and skill.
And so began the campaign lead by the locals and Harbour Commissioners of Wells next the Sea plus many other art lovers and tourists throughout the UK. The aim was to to raise the £15,000 to purchase Rachael Long's horse so it could have a permanent home on their shoreline.
I have just read in The Eastern Daily Press (edp24.co.uk) that as of the 3 February 2019 the locals have raised the money required to purchase the Light Boat Horse.
Business Simply Coastal were among those that donated to the cause, and co-owner Annie Hogan said: “I am over the moon that the community pulled together to keep the sculpture. “It is part of our history and heritage as the horses used to pull the lifeboats out to sea and it is amazing to have it here. Tourists and locals love to look out and see it, we needed to keep it. I’m really pleased.” (edp24.co.uk)
The Harbour commissioners have pledged to cover all ongoing insurance, maintenance and winter storage costs.
This is a wonderful story and Rachael Long’s Light Boat Horse will be at home where it belongs. A most satisfying result for the artist and the locals of Wells next the Sea, Norfolk. Thank you E in London for alerting me to the story.