Sir Antony Gormley's statues dug up from beach to have new foundations

Baring all! Sir Antony Gormley’s 100 cast-iron naked statues are dug up from beach to have foundations re-set after strong currents caused them to tilt

  • Sir Antony Gormley’s 100 life-sized statues at Crosby Beach, Liverpool, are undergoing renovation work
  • The figures, based on Gormley’s own body, were pictured having new metal plinths installed on Monday
  • The naked iron statues were installed with foundation pilings that were only meant to last a year in 2005  
  • The renovation project began back in autumn 2019 but was halted amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic 

Sculptures by Sir Antony Gormley on a Liverpool beach have been completely dug up from the sand to have the foundations replaced after strong currents and shifting sands led to the statues tilting. 

The 100 life-size body cast-iron figures, which weigh 650kg, were dug up yesterday to have new foundation pilings installed, as the original ones were only meant to last one year, while the new replacements should last more than 25 years.

Sir Antony’s ‘Another Place’ installation on Crosby Beach was put on display at the seaside location back in July 2005 and work began on its ‘refurbishment and maintenance plan’ back in autumn 2019.

Work halted amid the Covid-19 pandemic but is now back underway, with new metal plinths being installed in a bid to prevent the Iron Men from subsiding or leaning over at right angles.

The sculptor, 70, was at Crosby Beach on Monday overseeing the renovation of his work and checking the alignment on the foundation piles, to ensure his statues will stand at his preferred angle.

Sculptures by Sir Antony Gormley on a Liverpool beach have been completely removed from the sand (pictured) as the foundations are replaced after they failed and strong currents led to the statues tilting

Sir Antony’s ‘Another Place’ installation (pictured after being removed) on Crosby Beach was put on display at the seaside location back in July 2005 and work began on its ‘refurbishment and maintenance plan’ back in autumn 2019

Sculptor Antony Gormley, 70, was at Crosby Beach on Monday overseeing the renovation of his 100 statues and checking the alignment on the foundation piles (pictured), to ensure his statues stand at his preferred angle

Pictures show the 6ft 2in figures, which are modelled on the artist’s own naked body, being dug out of the deep sand and eerily lay on the beach while their new mountings were installed. They are all expected to have returned to the beach by the end of the month.

Some of the iconic figures, which are spread across a 3.2 km stretch of sand, have been realigned to their original positions after shifting in the constant tides and moving sands since they were installed 16 years ago. 

The statues normally stand upright on the beach and as the tide comes in and out, the figures are submerged by the ocean and are corroded by the seawater. They attract tens of thousands of visitors to the Liverpool beach.

The naked figures, which face towards the River Mersey Estuary, caused considerable controversy when they were first installed but it was decided in 2007 to keep them as a permanent attraction under the ownership of Sefton Council.

But since then, the powerful currents and moving sans has led to a number of the statues tilting over after the foundations failed.

A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: ‘The artwork Another Place by Antony Gormley, situated at Crosby Beach, is currently undergoing routine maintenance.

Work halted amid the Covid-19 pandemic but is now back underway, with the sculptures being removed (above) and new metal plinths being installed in a bid to prevent the Iron Men from subsiding or leaning over at right angles

Pictures show the 6ft 2in figures, which are modelled on the artist’s own naked body, being dug out of the deep sand and eerily lay on the beach while their new mountings were installed

Some of the iconic figures (one is pictured being excavated), which are spread across a 3.2 km, have also been realigned to their original positions after shifting in the constant tides and moving sands since they were installed 16 years ago

The naked figures (pictured), which face towards the River Mersey Estuary, caused considerable controversy when they were first installed but it was decided in 2007 to keep them as a permanent attraction under the ownership of Sefton Council

‘As part of this maintenance, it is necessary to temporarily remove some of the cast iron figures, or ‘iron men’, to allow work to be done on their structural supports.

‘This work is being carried out to ensure that the figures remain upright and secure. We anticipate that maintenance work will be completed by late June 2021, when the figures will return to the beach.’

Another Place was first exhibited on the beach of Cuxhaven in Germany, before hearing to Stavanger in Norway and then De Panne in Belgium. 

But the naked figures caused controversy on arrival in Merseyside, despite attracting more tourists.

They were due to be relocated in November 2007 with coastguards and people who did watersports citing them a safety issue, while conservationists expressed concern that bird-feeding areas were compromised by tourist traffic.

But art lovers, business and Sir Antony himself lobbied for the temporary attraction to be made permanent, with permission finally being granted in March 2007. 

The artist, who is best known for the Angel of the North in Gateshead, recently made headlines after an art collector bought four of his cast iron sculptures and left them on a beach Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

There was a mixed reception from locals, as some say they look like a ‘vibrator collection’ or like something from Ann Summers’ while others support having public art. 

The four cast iron sculptures, each measuring up to 4ft long and weighing up to a tonne, are resting on the pebbled-beach at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Titled ‘Quartet (Sleeping)’ it was created in 2001 by Sir Antony who is acclaimed for his work. 

It was later sold to international art collector Caroline Wiseman who has a home and gallery space in Aldeburgh.

She kept it in her home and in a friend’s garden before deciding to display it on the beach ‘as a genuine art installation for the cultural benefit of the town’. 

The statues (one pictured with Sir Antony) normally stand upright on the beach and as the tide comes in and out, the figures are submerged by the ocean. They attract tens of thousands of visitors to the Liverpool beach

Artist Sir Antony Gormley, who is best known for his Angel of the North, is seen checking the alignment of one of the foundation piles as he oversees the renovation work of his installation ‘Another Place’ on Crosby Beach on Monday

The foundations are being replaced (one pictured being excavated) as powerful sea currents and moving sand has led to a number of the statues tilting over after the foundations failed

Another Place was first exhibited on the beach of Cuxhaven in Germany, before hearing to Stavanger in Norway and then De Panne in Belgium. But the naked figures caused controversy on arrival in Merseyside (pictured on Monday)

They statues (pictured during excavation on Monday) were due to be relocated in November 2007 with coastguards citing them a safety issue, while conservationists expressed concern that bird-feeding areas were compromised by tourist traffic

Many residents have praised Sir Antony’s work as a welcome addition to the cultural attractions of the seaside town, but others have been less complimentary.

As well as saying they resembled oversized sex toys, others compared the piece to a ‘variety of giant dog poo’ or ‘giant rabbit droppings’. 

Mrs Wiseman did not think she needed planning consent when she had the sculptures hauled in place on the shingle near a tower on the beach called Southern Lookout, which she uses as a workspace for guest artists.

But Sir Antony himself criticising how the works were placed at Aldeburgh beach last August, complaining that the sculptures – called Penis, Peg, Oval and Snowman – were left lying down instead of upright.

An official objection from his spokesman Bryony McLennan said this ‘completely compromises their purpose…and the artist’s original intention’. 

She added Sir Antony, 70, had not been consulted over the installation of the works, which are copies of street bollards made for a 1994 regeneration project. 

Ms McLennan said in a letter to East Suffolk Council that the bollards were meant to be upright in the ground and had ‘fixing roots’ enabling them to stand safely, rather than laying down horizontally as they are on Aldeburgh beach.

She added: ‘The change of orientation and configuration of the bollards completely compromises their purpose as a piece of street furniture and the artist’s original intention behind the work.’

Ms McLennan also said that a plaque accompanying the sculptures, naming them as a 2001 artwork called Quartet (Sleeping) was also false and had not been approved by Sir Antony.

Ms McLennan added: ‘Whilst the artist would not deny the importance of art in the public space and the cultural benefit that a work of art can bring to a community it is important to note that any installation of Antony Gormley’s work in the public realm is always carried out in close consultation with the artist.’ 

Ms McLennan said Sir Antony also objected to the bollards being described on the planning application as an ‘art installation’. 

But art lovers, business and Sir Antony (pictured) himself lobbied for the temporary attraction to be made permanent, with permission finally being granted in March 2007

Artist Sir Antony Gormley is pictured checking the alignment of one of the foundation piles as the statues were given new metal plinths on Monday to prevent them from tilting amid the tides

Yorkshire-born Sir Antony (pictured with an Another Place statue) has been creating artistic sculptures since the early 1980s, with his first exhibition coming in 1981

Artist Sir Antony Gormley and his studio senior assistant Ashley Hipkin (left) both oversee the replacement foundations of his iconic installation Another Place

The 100 life-size body cast-iron figures, which weigh 650kg, had new foundation pilings installed yesterday, as the original ones were only meant to last one year, while the new replacements should last more than 25 years

Owner Caroline Wiseman was applying for planning permission but has conceded defeat and will sell the works, weighing 200lb each, for £5,000 apiece.

The beach is already home to a controversial sculpture of a giant scallop by Maggi Hambling. 

Yorkshire-born Sir Antony has been creating artistic sculptures since the early 1980s, with his first exhibition coming in 1981.

Many of his pieces focus around the human body, and he has regularly used his own body to create metal casts for his work.   

In 2006, his work Asian Field was displayed at the Sydney Biennale. The piece was an installation of 180,000 small clay figurines crafted by 350 Chinese villagers.

The following year 31 life-size and anatomically correct casts of his body were displayed around London’s South Bank in a piece he called Event Horizon.  

His most well-known work is the Angel of the North in Gateshead.

Standing at 66ft tall, it has a wingspan of 177ft and overlooks the A1 and A167.

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