Antony Gormley – work on a grand scale… [11/02/2009]
Antony Gormley was 31 when London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery opened its doors to his first solo exhibition. That was in 1981, the year Gormley created his first hominoid sculptures (Three Ways). In 2008-2009, Gormley was the n° 3 contemporary British artist ranked by auction revenue.
After 20 years of creative endeavour, Antony GORMLEY ’s career received a significant boost when he won the Turner Prize in1994 for a spectacular work entitled Field for the British Isles, (1993). The work was an installation that mobilised hundreds of volunteers to make 40,000 "body-surrogates" out of clay. In later years, the artist organised the creation of other Fields. In 2006, his Asian Field involved 350 Chinese villagers from the XianXian region to create 180,000 staring clay figures.
Forming part of massive projects (Asian Field covers 2,000 square metres), the clay figures are extremely rare at auctions. In February 2001, Christie's sold a lot of 200 sculptures for €41,000 (£26,000), but since then no other auctioneer has offered any of these rare objects.
The restriction of Gormley’s market (about 10 pieces a year at auctions) has contributed to the elevation of his prices. His hominoid sculptures (the most sought-after of his works) are seldom accessible for less than €100,000 at auctions.
After the installation at Gateshead in northern England of his publicly commissioned monumental sculpture, Angel of the Northi, (1994-1998) weighing 200 tons and measuring 20 metres tall and 54 metres wide, the artist’s name acquired in international dimension. Angel of the North, the largest sculpture ever built in England, immediately became a rallying point and in 1998 the artist was admitted to the Order of the British Empire for services rendered to sculpture. The construction of such a huge monument involved the creation of numerous smaller models, two of which were auctioned in 2008. The largest (1 of 5 measuring five metres wide) was offered on 1 July 2008 at Sotheby’s in London. Carrying an estimated price range of £600,000 – £800,000, the work finally went under the hammer at £2.02m (€2.55m).
Three months later (17 October 2008) Sotheby’s presented a smaller version in bronze - nearly three metres wide and from a series of 12 copies - which fetched the equivalent of €615,000 (£480,000).
Alongside his sculptures, Gormley also produces a large quantity of drawings which are far more affordable for amateur art collectors. As demand for these paper works is much less intense, one can pick up original drawings by the artist for between €2,000 and €5,000 on average. At the recent October sales in London, Sotheby's (16 October 2009) and Phillips de Pury & Company (17 October 2009) each sold a Gormley drawing for around €2,200.
Despite the restrained market conditions over the 2008/09 period, Antony Gormley came third in the ranking of contemporary British artists by auction revenue. Between July 2008 and June 2009, his works generated a total of €4.7m from 19 lots (of which 10 were sculptures) behind Damien HIRST in first place (€134.7m) and Peter DOIG (€12.2m).