Gormley sculpture installed on West Front

September 01 2021
Gormley sculpture installed on West Front

THE sculpture being loaned to Wells by artist Sir Antony Gormley has been installed on the West Front of Wells Cathedral.

In a delicate operation that took several hours, the work, titled DOUBT, was lifted and fixed in position in Niche 338 below the Cathedral’s North-West tower on August 26. Cast in iron and just over life-size, it will be in place for 18 months.

Onlookers applauded once the sculpture was safely hoisted from the ground and eased on to the platform put up for the installation.

Although the sculpture is modestly sized by Gormley standards, great care has been taken to ensure that there is no impact on the fabric of the Cathedral. The project has been given the go-ahead by the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, the body that oversees the care and conservation of Church of England cathedrals, and by Historic England.

The sculpture is unloaded from the lorry on which it arrived

The sculpture is unloaded from the lorry on which it arrived

Jez Fry, Wells Cathedral’s Clerk of the Works, said: “A temporary plinth, secure non-invasive fixings and protective measures have all been specifically designed to seamlessly integrate the sculpture with the medieval architecture while in position, and then be fully reversible to return Niche 338 to its original condition.”

Antony Gormley told Wells Voice that it is always dangerous to predict the outcome of a project like this, but that he is “really excited about the conversation that a work made today will have with this ancient building. Cathedrals remain the most inspiring example of collaborative, collective creativity, open to all eyes and all weathers. Sculpture acts in and on time and I am hoping that this brief intervention interrogates our time in the context of a very different one.”

Asked what he hopes the public reaction will be to seeing the sculpture, he said: “Another thing that is very dangerous to predict. I’m hoping that people will join in the conversation and give the work their time. The statues of kings, queens, saints and angels were supposed to give comfort and stability in a context of territorial war and a stratified society. My sculpture has a very different function.”

To people who might be unhappy about the sculpture appearing on the Cathedral, he said: “This is a privilege and a gamble. The white cube is safer than messing with history. But the centrality of art in materialising our hopes and fears is as important now as ever. The conversations about how it works and what it does are as valuable as the things themselves.”

The 730kg sculpture is hoisted up

The 730kg sculpture is hoisted up

The project was initiated by Wells resident Paddy O’Hagan, who is Chair of Wells Art Contemporary. Fundraising for the transportation and installation of the sculpture, and community involvement, has been co-ordinated by Project Factory CIC.

Project Factory Director Emma Lefevre said: “I’m thrilled to see the sculpture in situ, and hope that the people of Wells and further afield will be equally as excited to see this work by one of our foremost artists, on one of our most beautiful buildings.

“Huge thanks to every individual and organisation that has donated funds to help bring the sculpture here, and thus played a part in what is a really significant event for Wells.”

Sculptor Antony Gormley and his new work DOUBT; and the sculpture in place on Niche 338 (Picture left: Stephen White & Co)

Sculptor Antony Gormley and his new work DOUBT; and the sculpture in place on Niche 338 (Picture left: Stephen White & Co)

As part of the fundraising initiative, Project Factory has produced a 32-page visitor brochure for Wells Heritage Partners (Wells Cathedral, The Bishop’s Palace, the Wells & Mendip Museum and the Bishop’s Barn). Titled Heritage Wells: An Introduction to the Historic Sites of Wells, the brochure will be on sale for £4.50 at the heritage sites and will benefit the community projects launched by the Gormley Project.

There will be another fundraiser on September 25 at Cedars Hall: Call My Art Bluff, when a panel of experts will pitch their wits and bluff the audience with their descriptions of priceless artefacts.

The event will be used by Project Factory to support the community arts programme in response to the Gormley installation, and will also benefit The Lawrence Centre in Wells.

The sculpture is on loan for 18 months

The sculpture is on loan for 18 months