Antony Gormley – Grounds
Museum Voorlinden – Wassenaar
May 26 – September 25, 2022
This summer, Antony Gormley (1950) takes over the museum and estate of Voorlinden. The British artist is renowned worldwide for his sculptures and installations that investigate the relationship between the human body and the space around us. GROUND brings together work spanning Gormley’s career, from his early lead sculptures to new installations that are custom made for Voorlinden. The groundbreaking show is the biggest solo exhibition Voorlinden has ever presented and will be on display from 26 May through 25 September 2022.
Antony Gormley is well known for his works in the public realm, including the iconic Angel of the North in Gateshead in Northern England and his crouching body form Exposure near Lelystad in the Netherlands. The artist approaches the age-old subject of the human body in his own unique, yet universal and philosophical way, building on art history and conceptual sculpture of the 1960s and 1970s. In the exhibition GROUND, he uses both his own body and that of the visitor to ask fundamental questions about where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos.
Director Suzanne Swarts: “Antony is one of those rare artists who has built up a timeless oeuvre with a universal visual language, yet very own signature. Sculpture and the human body are his starting point for an endless cosmological investigation that concerns, touches and encourages to reflect.”
Antony Gormley states: “Sculpture of the body is no longer a medium of memorial and idealisation but a context in which human being can be examined. Sculpture is no longer representational: it is an instrument of investigation and questioning. I have called this exhibition GROUND to make this open invitation of sculpture clear. Without the viewer there is no show, without the gallery there is no context. The joy of this kind of exhibition is to allow the richness of the context itself to become activated by sculpture. For me, the body of the viewer is often the activating principle in a ‘ground’ of contemplation: the works become catalysts for awareness and grounds for physical and imaginative inhabitation. In a time of chaos and a creeping feeling that everything is breaking down, we need art more than ever. It gives us space of stillness and silence in which we can discover shy bits of our own nature, but also wells of resilience and hope. With art we have tools to generate, through sense and first-hand experience, the ground for a truth that we might believe in. Never has the beholder’s share been more important.”
First times in the Netherlands
GROUND offers an overview of Antony Gormley’s extensive oeuvre, from the very early Open Door (1975) and his early lead sculptures to some of his most recent installations like Clearing (2022). The exhibition includes artworks from the Voorlinden collection that are on display for the first time in the Netherlands. This includes Passage (2016), a 12-metre-long human-shaped tunnel that offers a journey into darkness. Another Dutch premiere is Breathing Room (2010), in which you can experience standing in a three-dimensional drawing in space. Head of Exhibitions Barbara Bos: “Through sculpture, Gormley invites us all to explore, experience and question our place in the universe.”
In Amazonian Field (1992), 24,000 terracotta figures stare at you, confronting you with fundamental questions concerning your existence in and relation to the world. Extending outside, Critical Mass (1995) puts sculpture in dialogue with the museum’s extensive grounds: 60 solid cast iron bodyforms will be placed in relation with the trees, lawns, canals and reedbeds of the park. Gormley sees these ‘capturings’ of basic body positions as “industrially made fossils dropped into the Voorlinden’s verdant context, calling on embedded body-memory and our potential for feeling”.
Director Suzanne Swarts: “You can’t simply see Antony Gormley’s art. You’ll have to experience it. As a visitor, you really have to undergo the physical force of the exhibition GROUND to understand what the artist wants to say.”
Special bond with Voorlinden
GROUND will be one of the most ambitious exhibitions in the history of Voorlinden, the first to occupy both the museum and the surrounding estate. “As a museum, we want to do everything we can to offer Antony Gormley the stage he deserves”, says director Suzanne Swarts. The exhibition is specifically made for Voorlinden, with site specific installations and sculptures that form an intimate dialogue with the light, architecture and landscape. “Voorlinden is a wonderful place to think about nature and our nature in nature, and our need to form things: landscapes, bodies and knowledge”, says Gormley. The museum has a long and close relationship with the artist, who in 1994 made a sculpture for the Clingenbosch sculpture garden. Six works from the museum collection are part of the exhibition.