BBC BLOGS - The Reporters: Razia Iqbal
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Unsung celebrities

Razia Iqbal | 15:55 UK time, Friday, 3 October 2008

moss_gold.jpgIt's an eerie, unsettling, yet magnificent sight - the 50kg, £1.5m solid gold Kate Moss statue at the British Museum.

With gold being in more demand than ever, the insurance must have gone through the roof. I did think that if the economic climate continued to spiral out of control, the Bank of England could requisition the statue and melt it down. But then we would lose our very own Aphrodite, contorting in her impossible yoga pose and staring out to the Greek goddesses and beauties around her.

That she symbolises the impossibility of beauty and riches, I can stomach. That the artist is reflecting our times is harder to swallow and more so because it is essentially true: That celebrity is the new divinity.

serra_300.jpgI thought about celebrity again as I walked through Richard Serra's gargantuan steel structures at the Gagosian gallery today.

Serra, whose exhibition opens to the public tomorrow, doesn't come to Britain very often. His work was last seen here in 1992. Yet his name should be shouted from the rooftops, or even just from the top of his vast pieces, which constantly play with form.

He is a champion of seriousness and his work should be more widely known and experienced.

One piece, redolent of the hull of a ship, forced me to walk backwards away from it and compelled me towards it again and again. He used to work in steel mills, and he talks with ease about the construction of his pieces, seeing the grips needed to places his pieces on site as extensions of his arms. There is a heroism to his work which is as much to do with his obsession with process as with the final product.

What is it about sculpture and big sculpture in particular which speaks to our primitive selves. What makes it so potent?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Heroism?

  • Comment number 2.

    i think quinn’s work fails in a number of areas not least it's proximity (chronological) to hirst's skull and the whole concept (slim concept) of using media with high intrinsic economic value. worse still for me, is it's scale. it is just too small. it’s a maquette, a model of the statue he should have made. i guess there was a limit to how much money he was prepared to invest in somebody else’s idea. his comments about “the ideal beauty of the moment” made me laugh out loud. it all sounds a little “gcse coursework”. i am not in the slightest bit convinced that the work would not have been just as “effective” if rendered in bronze, though perhaps a little less news worthy.

    no such issues of scale with serra. like kapoor and gormley his works can have a sense of being “larger” than their physical form. as for the source of potency of sculpture and large sculpture in particular I’m not so sure. my own experience of sculpture is very different from that of experiencing painting, for example. sculpture are objects. we experience them in physical space, the same physical space that we inhabit, they are present. while the image plane will always be an abstraction, it will always be a picture of something. something that is absent.

  • Comment number 3.

    while i admire - and am sometimes impressed by - large sculptures, they never get under my skin the way smaller pieces do.

    it is altogether too easy to walk away from a moore, or a hepworth, or a gormley (even a michelangelo): monumental sculptures are resolutely public, and they stay outside us.

    smaller pieces might - in theory - be part of someone's life. when i think of sculptures which have changed me i remember epstein's rock-drill, several gaudier-brzeskas, palaeolithic venuses, and most of all the zimbabwean fish-eagle. all of these might have lived in a house with someone.

    i find quinn's work similarly disturbing (in a good sense). 'siren' is unownable because of its price - but only for that reason. but 'siren' could live in a room with someone - and watch them doing the things a person does.

    public statuary keeps itself to itself: it isn't worrying enough.

 

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