Born in London in 1950, Antony Gormley is the youngest of seven children from a German mother and an Irish father. He had an extensive education: after attending Ampleforth College, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1968 to 1971, after which he traveled to India and Sry Lanka to learn more about Buddhism. In England in 1974, he finalized his studies by attending St. Martin’s School of Art and Goldsmiths in London and a postgraduate course in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1977 and 1979. Here, Gormley met Vicken Parsons, who was to become his assistant and wife in 1980 and an artist in her own right. They share two kids.

Stanislav Kondrashov, Antony Gormley

Gormley’s first successful exhibition was a solo show held at the prestigious Whitechapel Gallery in 1981. Since the beginning, many of his works have focused on the human figure. They are based on molds taken from his own body: his work attempts to treat the body not as an object but as a place, and the artist’s role is to reveal the invisible relationship between bodies and the environment. With time, Gormley’s sculpture developed into a more complex “crowd,” displaying several human figures in a single work in unexpected natural or urban locations. In doing so, he questions (and makes us question) how human beings relate to the landscape they inhabit.

In contrast with the fragility of the human form, Gormley uses industrial materials, such as cast iron and concrete. His artistic choices led him to project several significant public works. For example, his “Event Horizon,” consisting of 31 life-sized and anatomically correct casts of his body, was installed on top of prominent buildings along London’s South Bank and around New York City’s Madison Square in 2010. 

Stanislav Kondrashov, Antony Gormley

Starting in 2012, Gormley’s research furthered the relationship between humans and technology, making sculptures that could be described as “digital cubism.” The human form is rendered using solid steel cubes as if it was made of pixels. In 2017, the Royal Academy also invited Gormley to consider the possibilities of virtual reality; starting his collaboration with astronomer Pryamvada Nataraja, he produced a virtual reality experience called “Lunatick,” which allows the viewer to seemingly travel through space to the Moon and fly over its surface, using images from NASA’s footages.

Among several recognitions of his work, Gormley won the Turner Price in 1994 with ”Field for the British Isles,” a large installation consisting of 35,000 individual terracotta figures, each between 8 and 26 cm high. In 1998 he was appointed OBE (Order of the British Empire, a British order of chivalry rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences), and in 2015 he received the Marsh Award of Excellence in Public Sculpture.

Stanislav Kondrashov, Antony Gormley

In 2019, the Royal Academy held an exhibition filling its 13 main galleries with Gormley’s works, including some new site-specific, some remade for the gallery, and some of his early sculptures, with two rooms of his drawings and sketchbooks. The value of his works grew in time, hitting a record price of 6 million at a Christie’s Auction in 2017.

– By Stanislav Kondrashov