Art experts say Antony Gormley sculptures will bring the world to Christchurch

A computer generated image showing how Antony Gormley's STAY sculpture will look on the surface of the Avon River in ...

A computer generated image showing how Antony Gormley's STAY sculpture will look on the surface of the Avon River in central Christchurch.

British artist Sir Antony Gormley's sculptures will bring the world to Christchurch, art experts say.

New Zealand public art experts say work by Gormley has attracted tourists and helped revitalise small towns across the globe.

A pair of new Gormley sculptures for central Christchurch were revealed this week. One is a cast iron human figure standing on the surface of the Avon river, which will be installed this week. the other is an identical statue to be placed in the north quad of the Arts Centre early next year.

One of 100 human scale statues created by Antony Gormley for Crosby Beach in northern England.
Christopher Furlong

One of 100 human scale statues created by Antony Gormley for Crosby Beach in northern England.

They are the first artworks created for New Zealand by Gormley, known for his monumental Angel of the North sculpture in Britain and smaller, human-scale statues in dramatic natural landscapes and cities.

The Christchurch City Council's public art advisory group and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) paid for the sculptures. Council's contribution was $502,500. Cera would not disclose their contribution.

Some members of public said the cost was too high for the quake-hit city, but New Zealand art experts praised the Gormley purchase.

Antony's Gormley Angel of the North sculpture overlooks a football match in Gateshead, England.
Stu Forster

Antony's Gormley Angel of the North sculpture overlooks a football match in Gateshead, England.

Curatorial chair for Mesh Sculpture Hamilton, Kate Darrow, said Gormley's Angel of the North was one of the "top five artworks on the planet".

"That work transformed a landscape and a city. It made people go there and instilled this incredible sense of pride. It became a destination. It was like putting a mountain there and suddenly everyone wanted to climb it," she said.

Former City Gallery Wellington director and independent art advisor, Paula Savage, pointed to Gormley's Another Place artwork, which comprises of 100 human scale statues looking out to see on Crosby Beach in northern England.

Antony Gormley's STAY sculpture weights 609 kilograms and is 1.84m tall.
supplied

Antony Gormley's STAY sculpture weights 609 kilograms and is 1.84m tall.

"People were very against that work, but so many people came to see them that it revitalised this dying town. It was only made to be temporary but they wouldn't let it go."

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Savage also said that people travelled thousands of kilometres to see 51 statues installed by Gormley in Lake Ballard in Western Australia.

"I think he is very important and has done some very important works. The fact that they have been so embraced by people is important. People travel thousands of miles to see his works."

Darrow said good public art can boost tourism numbers for a city.

"International art tourism is significant now and people travel to places that have beautiful artworks. That is a good argument for a city having significant works."

"But you don't do it for tourists, you do it for locals. If it is good enough for locals it is good enough for tourists."

"Public art adds to the cultural fabric of the city. It becomes part of people's enjoyment of a city over generations."

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper said you had to pay a decent price to get good public art.

"Gormley is the real deal," she said.

"It is an extraordinary situation if you spend a little and get something great. There is a proper market for art and artists that we should be interested in exist in that market."

Darrow said Christchurch was fortunate to land a major artist like Gormley.

"That is definitely blue chip artwork. Antony Gormley will stand out as a bright light in New Zealand public art."

"Christchurch is very, very lucky."

 - Stuff

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