BBC News

Antony Gormley's sculptures hit the heights

By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Lech am Arlberg, Austria

image captionGormley's figures explore the place of humanity in nature

British sculptor Anthony Gormley has created 100 life-size human figures and installed them high in the Austrian Alps.

The art project, which has been put together by the Kunsthaus Bregenz Museum, will run for two years in the mountains above the ski resort of Lech in western Austria.

A rusty iron sculpture of a man gazes out over the mountain peaks near the ski runs of Lech am Arlberg.

It is one of a hundred cast iron figures scattered over 150 sq km (58 sq miles)of some of Austria's most dramatic scenery.

Some of them perch on ledges by chairlifts and cable cars.

Others stand in solitary splendour among the rocks and streams of the high Alpine meadows, accessible only on foot, or on skis in the winter.

The figures are part of an art project, called Horizon Field, by the sculptor Antony Gormley.

He has displayed similar sculptures in London and among the skyscrapers of Manhattan - but this is the wildest setting yet.

Over the next two years the works will be exposed to the wind, the rain, the sun and the snow.

Gormley says the mountain environment is a huge contrast to the urban location of his New York installation.

"It is just the most impressive, powerful, ever-changing landscape," he says.

'Human horizons'

"In every season this looks different, but even in one day it can be so different. And that whole idea of engaging in the changing conditions of this landscape - I couldn't have imagined a better place."

Gormley says the figures are neither representations nor symbols. He says they indicate places where human beings have been - and where anyone could stand in the future.

"It is actually about saying the world is a picture and we are in it," he says.

He hopes the figures will stimulate questions about our place on the planet.

Gormley says: "It is about human horizons. The project asks a very simple question - where does the human species belong in the scheme of things?"

"Can human futures and the future of the planet work together or are they distinct?"

media captionBethany Bell visits one of the figures in its Alpine home

Bringing the heavy iron bodies more than 2,000m (6,561ft) above sea level was a complex operation, which involved helicopter flights, the Austrian army and mountain rescue teams.

It took five years of negotiations with local authorities, farmers, hunters and landowners to get the project off the ground.

The pieces will be on display until the spring of 2012, giving hikers and skiers the chance to come face to face with the sculptures, and to look and touch.

Mona, who drove here from Germany with her husband to see the installation said it was special to see the metal figures in "these green meadows and in this landscape."

"We arrived early in the morning with our camper van."

"At first when I saw them I think they are so little, they are too small! But then I saw they are our size and we are so small in this beautiful nature here. "

An Austrian school teacher said she had seen works by Antony Gormley at the Kunsthaus Museum in Bregenz. But she said the figures have more power when they are outside.

The sturdy iron figures, battered by the mountain wind and sun, are a reminder of humanity's fragile place in nature.

More on this story

  • Alpine home for Gormley sculptures