I was in Liverpool for a few days recently and taken to see Antony Gormley’s public art piece ‘Another Place’, on Crosby Beach. This installation comprises 100 life-size, cast iron figures looking out to sea – to “another place”. The sculptures, which are of the artist’s own, naked body, are spread along three kilometres of the shoreline and stretch almost one kilometre into the sea. The figures were originally identical but now each one has aged differently according to how their bodies have been eroded and weathered by the tides. Some men are clothed in barnacles and small crustaceans while others remain nude; each man has become discoloured and aged in their own, unique way.
On the day I visited, people strolled on the beach, by themselves, as couples, and in larger family groups. Occasionally, I’d catch myself looking at someone who appeared to be standing still, staring out to sea – only to discover, once I’d come a little nearer, that I’d been gazing at a life-size sculpture. I was also startled a few times when a distant, seemingly-barnacled man suddenly started walking. It was quite unsettling!
As with all public art, my first reaction on encountering it is always a feeling of gratitude. I really like the fact that the art is HERE, right before my eyes, that I don’t have to pay an entrance fee, or queue or book to start engaging with it. I wrote recently about the generosity of public poems, about how much I’ve benefitted and enjoyed reading poems on the London Underground and in public spaces. I felt the same about these sculptures. It wasn’t that I thought them beautiful – although there is beauty in the vulnerability and honesty of these naked, ageing men – it was more that I felt stimulated and interested in the strangeness of these cast iron people who shouldn’t really be here. Although the sculptures’ presence disrupts a natural place, I didn’t feel that they disrespected it. I enjoyed the fact that nature is changing them and interacting with them rather than being dominated by them.
Ultimately, though, and this no doubt says something about me or about the way I’m feeling at the moment, or perhaps about my age and my feelings about growing older, I found the barnacled men very sad. Although there are so many of them, they are all alone. I felt a longing for at least a few of them to be placed together, holding hands. I wanted to hold their hands! They reminded me of how we humans enter and leave the physical world in solitude. And what is missing from the land, from where these men are from, that they need to turn their backs on it and yearn for another place?
Have you seen them? What are your thoughts? or perhaps you’ve seen something similar.
June 26th Post Update – Far better images in David Coldwell’s Flickr stream, linked below in the comments section – please take a look. I’ve also added a link to Michael Joseph’s image of the Gormley figure at Lismore Castle, Ireland since Annette Skade has sent a poem inspired by this sculpture). Thanks, everyone. Josephine.
18 thoughts on “Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’, Crosby Beach”
I love Antony Gormley’s sculptures, he is fantastic. I know about the men on the shore, but not seen them. I have visited his Angel of the North a few times. It is one thing I always look forward to seeing when we are driving to Northumberland. That one was made out of scrap metal left over from the ship building industry, when the shipyards closed down. It makes me feel so sad and so proud all at the same time.
I would love to see his Angel, I’ve only seen photographs of it. You’ve made me want to see it even more with your description! It isn’t necessarily a negative thing to be sad, is it? How wonderful that a piece of art can move a person. Thank you so much for commenting.
Finally visited Crosby in January this year. I’m with you on the gratitude we owe to public art but particularly with Another Place there’s something wholly more metaphysical – watching the sun set from the western shore before being covered by the tide. Magical. Here’s a a link to a few pictures from January https://www.flickr.com/photos/115040882@N02/12075858236/in/photostream/
Wow, David, your pictures are stunning. Thank you for adding them here.
Josephine, I’ve wanted to see ‘Another Place’ ever since I watched a TV documentary showing how Gormley and his team ctreated them, so it’s good to read about your response to seeing them at first hand.
This week, I plan to pay a visit to Leicester Botanic Gardens for its annual Sculpture in the Botanic Garden exhibition. Free entry, local (to me), surprising and sometimes shocking – it gets my vote!
I’ll have to look up the documentary, Jayne, thanks for telling me about it. How lovely that there is a local, free and yearly sculpture event for you to attend! Enjoy 🙂
Lovely post. You’ve made me homesick for the North West now Josephine. I love Another Place and was only looking at a photograph yesterday, of my family all lined up beside one of those barnacled men. That was seven years ago. At one point, there was a risk the figures may be moved on, but I’m so pleased they have stayed to age at Crosby, and fascinate all who see them.
Hi Rebecca! Yes, I hadn’t realised that the men were at two other places (one in Stavanger in Norway, can’t remember where the other venue was) before they settled in Crosby. I’m sure you’ll have a return visit one day – I hope you do. Thanks for reading my post! x
gormley at Lismore Castle, Ireland. poem from my book Thimblerig. I’d love to see these. Hopefully this year.
Gormley Figure: The Yew Walk, Lismore
So often a flicker
in the distance
thickens to trunk,
a narrowing of trees
drapes fear on the nape.
head and shoulders jut
from rusty bark.
A sharp intake,
out-breath rooting in ages.
Annette Skade http://annetteskade.com/
Mm, interesting, Annette, thanks for sharing your poem. I found this link to a photo of the figure that inspired your poem. http://t.co/XEMB2MAiUn
I was taken to see them in the middle of a job interview! I’d applied to be Director of Children’s Services in Sefton. They took candidates on a tour of the borough including the Gormley sculptures at Crosby. I found them very calming and peaceful. I liked the steadiness of their gaze and I liked watching as families or people walking intermingled with them. It gave me a sense of comfort – strangely I got the opposite feel to you for I thought they were detached and yet not alone because they drew people to them. Going to see them was the best thing I’ve ever done in an interview – even though I didn’t get the job!
You sound like a very positive person, Col, thanks so much for sharing your response to the men! It’s such a powerful piece of art – I’m still thinking about them now, weeks after visiting them. I love your thought about the men not being alone. What an interesting job interview but it sounds like Children’s Services have missed out!
i really enjoyed your thoughtful response to these figures (I’ve never seen them before). Beautifully written.
Thanks for your kind comment, Laura! I hope you have the chance to see them. I’m quite keen to look for more of Antony Gormley’s work now.
Oh – this trip has been on my list for a long time now! I’ll be driving past Liverpool this summer again, and perhaps now my children are that bit older they’ll want to stop and visit them with me. Outside sculptures are profoundly emotional: it’s that shimmer between inanimate and life that you describe so well.
I really hope you’ll take your children to see them, Isabel. I wonder what you will all make of them. Beautifully put – it IS emotional to confront deep-seated feelings about life, the universe and everything in a public setting. As always, thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment. x
Hi Josephine, these figures remind me very much of the figures placed on various roof tops in central London a few years ago. I’m afraid I can not remember the name of the artist now but on my walk home from work crossing Waterloo Bridge, one of the figures was on the rooftop of the LWT building, another on the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They were much the same of those on Crosby Beach and were quite haunting I thought. When they were first placed on the roofs, many people thought they were real people and were quite concerned that somebody was about to jump off the roof. I think the Police were called several times before everyone finally realised they were looking up at statues.
Hi Hugh, I think they might have been Gormley figures as well, someone else mentioned them on my LinkedIn stream. They sound fantastic. I rather like the thought of the police being called out (terrible waste of their time, though, oops!) and having to arrest a statue (!). Thanks for commenting. 🙂