Antony Gormley Awarded New Percent For Art Commission By MIT

The Turner Prize winning artist Sir Antony Gormley has been awarded a new Percent-for-Art commission for MIT in Boston, USA. Gormley’s proposed work, a spiral sculpture composed of irregular polyhedra connecting the floor to the skylight in the staircase of Building 2, will be the latest of the artist’s large-scale, site-specific works. The work will play on the movement of living bodies and the geometry of the stair itself, giving a counterpoint that animates the experience of ascending and descending the building. Building 2—which houses the Department of Mathematics and parts of the Department of Chemistry—is currently under renovation by Ann Beha Architects. 

Upon his selection, Gormley said, “I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a physical manifestation of geometry for the staircase of the Mathematics Department at MIT. This is a helical polyhedral column, an unsteady tower of space-frames made from duplex stainless-steel rods and large stainless-steel ball bearings welded together to link floor to roof. It is an engineering challenge, the outcome of which will, I hope, act as a spatial catalyst for both the space of the stairwell and a focus for people using the stairs.” 

Gormley’s proposed work will be composed of over 900 square stainless steel rods welded together and joined at nodes by 541 polished stainless steel balls, each with a diameter of 60 mm. It will interact with differing conditions of day and night: the facets of the work will make some surfaces reflect, while others will be read as darker faces. As with a fish-eye lens, the balls at the nodes will mirror their environment. The idea is that the work becomes an organic column in the space, the intervals of which will counter the more regular intervals of the stair, implying that this is a section of an endless chain that continues beyond what is apparent. Ann Gallagher, Head of Collections, Tate Britain said, “Antony Gormley’s sculpture for the Mathematics Department at MIT is a dynamic column, a form of drawing in space, that the artist describes as ‘celebrating the underlying geometry of all phenomena.’ It responds magnificently to both the architectural space in which it is situated and to its context. Internationally celebrated for his public artworks, Gormley has created a sculpture suggesting organic cellular structures, that make manifest the ever present interplay between drawing and form in his work.” 

Gormley was selected for the commission by Percent-for-Art committee members including: Richard Amster, Director of Facilities for Campus Planning, Engineering & Construction; Sonia Richards, Facilities Project Manager; Michael Sipser, Dean, School of Science; Heather Williams, Assistant Dean, School of Science; Gigliola Staffilani, Professor of Mathematics; John Bush, Professor of Applied Mathematics; Arne Abramson, Director, Capital Projects; Ann Beha, Architect, Ann Beha Architects; Paul C. Ha, Director, List Visual Arts Center; and Alise Upitis, Assistant Curator, List Visual Arts Center. 

Building 2 is currently under construction, with a projected completion date in 2016. The renovation’s objective is to better accommodate the academic and research needs of the Department of Mathematics. Sustainable design and construction initiatives will play a central role in the renovation. Building 2 is a part of the Main Group, which will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2016. This project may become a pilot project for a whole-building renovation approach to the Main Group. 

MIT’s Percent-for-Art program, formally established in 1968, funds the commission and purchase of art after new renovations or building projects. Such commissions can be seen throughout MIT’s campus, in the Zesiger Sports Center and Green Center for Physics, among others, by artists including Mark di Suvero, Jackie Ferrara, Dan Graham, Candida Hofer, Sol LeWitt, Louise Nevelson, Jorge Pardo, Matthew Ritchie, and Sarah Sze. 

Antony Gormley was born in London in 1950. Gormley’s work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally with exhibitions at Forte di Belvedere, Florence (2015); Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern (2014); Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo, Rio di Janeiro and Brasilia; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; Hayward Gallery, London; Malmö Konsthall, Sweden and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark. He has also participated in major group shows such as the 1982 and 1986 Venice Biennale and Documenta 8, Kassel, Germany. Permanent public works include the Angel of the North in Gateshead, England, Another Place at Crosby Beach, England, Inside Australia at Lake Ballard, Western Australia, and Exposure at Lelystad, The Netherlands. Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007, the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2013. In 1997 he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and was made a knight in the New Year’s Honours list in 2014. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Doctor of the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge. Gormley has been a Royal Academician since 2003.

Photo: P C Robinson © artlyst 2015

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