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Arts Features

You are in: Devon > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > Historic abbey to show prestigious artwork

Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles

The work is made up of 40,000 figures

Historic abbey to show prestigious artwork

A unique artwork by renowned scupltor Antony Gormley - made up of 40,000 unglazed, fired, small clay figures - goes on show at Torquay's oldest building in the summer of 2009.

The ancient site of Torre Abbey will be playing host to thousands of small visitors in June in the shape of celebrated sculptor Antony Gormley's work Field for the British Isles.

The work - which consists of 40,000 unglazed, fired, small clay figures - will be the centrepiece of a year of contemporary art at the abbey in Torquay. 

Perhaps most famous for his giant sculpture, Angel of the North, Gormley's Turner Prize-winning Field series is described as a "startling and arresting sight" with the figures standing closely together, all staring towards the viewer. 

The abbey's keeper of art, Amelia Marriette, says the decision to show the work at the abbey - which houses the third largest permanent art collection in Devon -  will put it firmly on the map and believes it is hard to underestimate the impact of bringing the work to Devon.

"It is the start of a new era for Torre Abbey as a major centre for contemporary arts in the region," she said.

Torre Abbey

The abbey has undergone a £6m revamp

"Everyone knows Gormley. Even if they don't know him by name they know the Angel of the North."

The actual figures- which range in size from 80mm to 260mm, were made by a community of families in Humberside, under Gormley’s direction, using brick clay.

Other versions of Field have been made by families of brickmakers in Mexico, by children in the Amazon Basin and by families in Guangzhou, China.

The figures will be assembled in the abbey's Spanish Barn over five days by a group of community volunteers.

"We are going to open that up to competition because we think it's a kind of life-changing event to be involved in," said Amelia.

"I really think it's important to get people involved -  I'd love to get some kids who have never been to a museum and say we'll train you to help put out this exhibition." 

Angel of the North by John Howells

The Angel of the North

The work will fill much of the barn and will be open to the public free of charge from 27 June to 23 August 2009.

The mediaeval tithe barn was originally built to store taxes paid to the abbey in the form of grain, hay and other farm produce. 

Its name comes from the time of the Spanish Armada, when 397 prisoners were captured and held in the barn for a fortnight.

"It will fill the whole barn in a way which nothing else could," said Amelia.

"We know that visitors will travel far and wide to see his work. It really is the beginning of something much bigger for Torre Abbey and for Torbay."

Field for the British Isles will be in the Spanish Barn from 27 June to 2 September 2009. Entry to the exhibition is free of charge but donations will be invited.

* Listen to Amelia Mariette talking to BBC Radio Devon's Jo Loosemore using the audio links on this page.

John Ayres' Spotlight film features interviews with volunteer Natalie Elder; curator of the Arts Council Collection Jill Constantine; and Amelia Marriette, keeper of art at Torre Abbey.

last updated: 22/06/2009 at 10:29
created: 21/11/2008

You are in: Devon > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > Historic abbey to show prestigious artwork

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