A new permanent sculpture by Angel of the North artist Antony Gormley was today unveiled outside the British Library. The simple iron piece, named Witness, marks the 90th anniversary of English PEN and depicts an empty chair. The theme is symbolic of English PEN's chief cause, defending the rights of persecuted writers around the world.
English PEN’s President, Gillian Slovo, says: “Antony Gormley has generously created for English PEN a sculpture that plays off the symbolism of PEN's empty chair. It will stand as tribute to, and reminder of, those writers who, because of censorship and tyranny, are not free to go to any library either in their countries or in ours.”
The small installation is a departure for Gormley, whose works typically include representations of his own body or, as in his 2009 commission for Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth, the co-opting of other people's bodies. You may also recall his 2007 'Event Horizon' visit to London, which saw 31 rusting Gormleys positioned around the South Bank and beyond. We had a bit of fun with it.
But what is it with Antony Gormley and Euston Road? Witness is the fourth piece by the artist to line that windy street. A sculpture known as The Planets can also be found in the British Library's forecourt (look closely, and you'll spot small human figures on the eight stone spheroids). A little further west and you'll encounter a standard Gormley humanoid, hanging upside-down within Wellcome Collection. And then at 350 Euston Road, two more iterations face each other from either side of the glass facade.
The new sculpture also shares a home with the masterful Newton installation by Eduardo Paolozzi.
Photo © Clare Kendall