Antony Gormley’s Sculpture for Dublin

Antony Gormley

While I’m a huge fan of Antony Gormley and in particular Angel of the North I’m not convinced that the scale of his proposed work for Dublin’s docklands is entirely appropriate. A human form of that scale in such a tight urban setting actually dimishes the innate human scale intrinsic in that setting, for example the implied human form and scale in the size and shape of a park bench, a doorway, the width of a pedestrian crossing (and a central concern in Gormley’s earlier work). The Angel of the North works so well in that it is unbounded by urbanity and talks down the post-human scales of modern British motorways, while nodding to the human as engineer and the implied Icarus-like failure that may lurk in our grand projects such as those motorways.

The docklands proposal is intimidatingly big. A graphic in today’s Irish Times places it at a head with Liberty Hall and twice the height of the Angel. Perhaps Gormley is seeking a different dynamic to the one I’ve identified, but I think this is a great sculpture in the wrong setting.

7 thoughts on “Antony Gormley’s Sculpture for Dublin”

  1. A Chara Alan

    a massive selection committee…..

    that aside – the reason the angel of the north stood out was because it was different/ unique/ un-trational etc and from [at the prior to] a relatively unknown artist.

    I would have assumed rather than go copycat syndrome…. that this massive selection committee would have at the very least done what [they assume] they are qualified to do and select ssomething unique different etc that would emulate the PR achieved by the angel of the north ie. attract tourists/ tv screens all over the world etc….
    Instead it seems they pick the good old reliable ‘well nobody can argue with this decision….’

    Unfortunate to think that in this country we do not have one person that can do better than what is being proposed – so say the comittee.

    To them I say horse manure.

  2. I agree with the last post, scale alone is an issue, but my angle on this is that we need monuments or structures with some form of interactivity, not just commemorative statues. People could climb the old Nelson’s pillar, and abroad we have the Eiffel Tower (criticised heavily when first built), the Statue of Liberty, the Seattle and Toronto towers etc. etc.

    My other idea (besides a Swift colossus) for the millenium competition was an aerial railway from North to South with huge towers at either end that would have heliports at the top. These would be architecturally beautiful and could incorporate statues.

    I know this has a theme-park quality to it, but the fact is that we need something that will [a] attract tourists and [b] provide one or more additional things to do in Dublin and Ireland.

  3. What I like about the proposed sculpture is its scale. I just feel that it is about time that Ireland, and Dublin in particular started to show itself on a European and world scale. The spike, I feel, will be looked upon in the future as important in making planners less apprehensive of big projects. I have travelled to cities and countrys around the world and taken pictures beside the various landmarks, always impressed by the scale of them. This project is big, and for me, it remains to be seen if it will fit the city properly. We do not, in my opinion have an abundance of truly spectacular landmarks and in this regard, this piece may go some way to redress the balance.

  4. Hi Paul, thanks for your comments. I haven’t seen the maquettes for this, do you have a link? I’m in total agreement with you on the Spike, it’s the long pointy trunk of a very big white elephant.
    As for the Angel, I’ve a preference for art that reveals it’s artifice, and Angel is bluntly the shape of it’s construction: it is what it is and materially doesn’t emulate another material. So ugly it’s beautiful in a way.
    At least, that’s the excuse I use myself all the time.

    As for the pose I think you have to look at the context of the two triumphal pieces you mention, not only personifying but by dint of scale deifying a nation and a battle respectively. The pose in a sense may be more apt for the slump-shouldered uncertainty of the postmodern world.

  5. Worthy points, but i disagree.
    First of all, human scale is obviously going too suffer, insofar as it is something to protect, when you create a large sculpture.
    I don’t share your enthusiasm for Angel of the North either. Gormley has talent but he is carrying out a series of conceptual and mechanical exercises not creating the highest level of sculptural expression. The maquesttes for his recent experiment with multiple real human figures (defining them by a mass of short straight lines) were much more visually interesting than the end result.
    Dublin has long needed two large constructions: Something akin to the Eiffel tower, which can symboliise the city and provide pleasure for tourists and citizens in terms of climbing it, eating meals at the topp etc. What did we het? The joyless, useless Spike that at least has the virtue of not being graphically ugly like the Angel.
    The other tyhing we lack is a colossal sculpture to cxommemorate one of our greatest writers and citizens, Dean Swift. The opportunity to create something inspired by Gulliver’s Travels is ovbvious, but look at the pose Gormley suggests — a figure with no identity and its arms apparently folded in front of it, head lowered. Contrast the Motherland statue in Stalingrad/Volgograd, or the Statue of Liberty.
    The transparent Buckmisnster Fuller-style method of construction could work, but a more dynamic pose or idea is needed, ideally incorpratiing human viewiing and entertainment facilities.

  6. According to the Dublin Docklands Authority the selection committee was:
    Patricia Quinn, Chair -Independent Consultant and former director of the Arts Council of Ireland

    Betty Ashe, St Andrew’s Resource Centre; Pearse Street

    Miroslaw Balka, Artist, Poland

    Jack Gilligan, Arts Officer, DublinCity Council;

    Seanie Lambe, Inner City Renewal Group;

    Declan McCourt, Board Member, Docklands Authority;

    Declan MacGonagle, INTERFACE, School of Art and Design, University of Ulster and former director of the IrishMuseum of Modern Art

    John McLaughlin, Director of Architecture, Docklands Authority;

    Annette Moloney, Independent Consultant and former Arts Council, Public Art Specialist;

    Patrick Murphy, DirectorRoyalHibernianAcademy, Dublin

    Niamh O’Sullivan, Board Member, Docklands Authority

    Cliodhna Shaffrey, Project Manager managed the selection process.

    The project director is Mary McCarthy, Arts Manager, Docklands Authority.

    I suppose Betty Ashe and Seanie Lambe represent the public per se in that list, but such an imposing structure should be open to public consultation as directly as plans for any other building.

    I notice the DDA’s description makes Lilliputians of the viewers. Macnas once made an anatomically correct Gulliver. Perhaps Mr. Gormley will give this fella a pump-action genito-urinary system and a swivel base.

    In case of fire.

  7. I agree! well said, i’m a fan of Gormley – but please – where is the public consultation on these grand projects – who is deciding what is best for Dublin – a great sculpture in the wrong setting….. indeed…

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