Richard Wilson Creates Europe’s Largest Privately Funded Sculpture

The Turner Prize nominated sculptor Richard Wilson (born May 24, 1953) has created Europe’s largest privately funded sculpture, designed in shimmering aluminium to mimic a jet’s vapour trail. The work will be installed inside the new £2.5bn Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport is due to open next June. The work is made up of 23 sections of Slipstream and together weighs 74 tonnes, and reach 70 metres in length.

Born in Islington, in London, he studied at the London College of Printing, Hornsey College of Art and Reading University. He was the DAAD resident in Berlin in 1992, Maeda Visiting Artist at the Architectural Association in 1998 and nominated for the Turner Prize in both 1988 (when Tony Cragg won) and 1989 (when Richard Long won).

Wilson’s work is characterised by architectural concerns with volume, illusionary spaces and auditory perception. His most famous work “20:50”, a room of specific proportions, half filled with highly reflective used sump oil creating an illusion of the room turned upside down was first exhibited at Matt’s Gallery, London in 1987, became one of the signature pieces of the Saatchi Gallery. It is considered to be a defining work in the genre of site-specific installation art. The same year the temporary (May–June) installation One Piece at a Time filled the south tower of the Tyne Bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

In the 1990s and 21st century, Wilson has continued to work on a large scale to fulfil his ambitions to “tweak or undo or change the interiors of space… in that way unsettle or break peoples preconceptions of space, what they think space might be”, including an installation near London’s Millennium Dome called “A Slice of Reality” in 2000. It consisted of a portion (15%) of a ship being sliced off from the rest and mounted on the river bed. In 2007 Wilson installed “Turning the Place Over” in a building in Liverpool’s city centre. Described by Liverpool Biennial organisers as his “most radical intervention into architecture to date”, Wilson cut an 8-metre diameter disc from the walls and windows of the building, and attached it to a motor which literally turned this section of the building inside out, in a cycle lasting just over two minutes. It was switched off in 2011. In 2009 Wilson’s architectural intervention, Square the Block, was installed on the northwest exterior of LSE’s New Academic Building at the corner of Kingsway and Sardinia Street. Commissioned by London School of Economics and curated by the Contemporary Art Society, Square the Block is a spectacular outdoor sculpture that both mimics and subtly subverts the existing façade of the building. In 2012 the installation “Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got a Great Idea” recreated the closing scene of the film The Italian Job on the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea. Richard Wilson is arguably one of the greatest public-scale sculptors in the UK. This work, his most important public commission in ten years, will again remind us of his lasting importance and contribution to British art.

A new exhibition of his work is currently on at CHELSEA space. No Formulas: an exhibition of preparatory maquettes and drawings for finished works, with a selection of proposals and scores for future projects by Richard Wilson.

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