Gormley and Antunes commissioned for Plymouth centrepiece

Antony Gormley and the Portuguese artist Leonor Atunes have been commissioned for Plymouth’s £40m museum and arts centre, The Box, due to open in June.


Gormley’s cast iron anthropomorphic piece LOOK II (the image above shows Gormley working on the piece in his studio) – twice life size and his first public installation for five years - will stand on the West Hoe Pier where Sir Francis Chichester landed in his boat the Gypsy Moth in 1967 to acclaim as the first person to circumnavigate the globe by the clipper route. “I am delighted by the site and honoured that this work has been commissioned by Plymouth to look out over the sea that has played such an important part in forming the outward-looking character of these islands” he said.

Leonor Antunes has been chosen to redesign the east window of the historic St Luke’s Church, now a contemporary art space within The Box (main image). It will be her first architectural glass piece, celebrating female craftsmanship and exploration and inspired by the end pages of the 1726 book Insects of Surinam by the female explorer and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, which is part of The Box’s historically significant Cottonian Collection. Merian was one of the first naturalists to observe and paint insects directly and is considered one of the most significant etymologists in history. “I was interested in revealing and enlarging a fragment of this book, not the prints, which could be an easy gesture. I chose to highlight the way the book was personalised by its owner, through the selection of the marble paper inside the back cover. I wanted to amplify what seems a minor detail, a decorative aspect of the book, which actually reveals the specificity of its content and history” said Antunes, who has represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale.

The artists named today are the first in a contemporary art programme for the centre’s first year, also marking the 400thanniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower for America from Plymouth.

“Both make work of rigorous material integrity that investigates human-kind’s relationship with the world around us, and how craft, design, fabrication and manufacture are intrinsic to our history” said Nigel Hurst, head of contemporary arts at The Box. “These two commissions will not only form a key part of Making It, one of The Box’s inaugural exhibitions, but also provide the city of Plymouth with lasting legacies from the launch of The Box and Mayflower 400 commemorations.”       


Leonor Atunes will be the subject of a forthcoming My Story feature.


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