When we visited Chatsworth last Saturday, we found an exhibition of modern and contemporary sculpture from Sotheby’s – Beyond Limits. This is the fourth year that the exhibition has been mounted at Chatsworth and is increasingly recognised as one of the most prestigious platforms for displaying monumental modern and contemporary sculpture in Europe. This event featured works by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Manolo Valdés and Jaume Plensa set against the backdrop of this magnificent English estate. A Sotheby’s video about the event can be viewed here.
These are the two Plensa pieces on display at Chatsworth – Heart of Trees (top) and Song of Songs. Heart of Trees consists of a life-size bronze figure, with a tree growing from the centre. The skin of the figure is covered with characters spelling out the names of composers. The other installation Song of Songs was interesting, but probably not displayed to best advantage – viewed behind bars in the Game larder. When previously exhibited, people have been able to walk through the steel curtain of suspended letters spelling out the words of the Biblical text.
I’m highlighting the work of Jaume Plensa here because this is not our first encounter with the sculptor’s work. In June his monumental piece, Dream, was unveiled on the old Sutton Manor colliery site at St. Helens (see my earlier post here). In 2007, working closely with a group of ex-miners, he was commissioned to create a new work on the site of the former colliery as part of the Big Art Project, a major national public art initiative linked to Channel 4. The proposed sculpture titled Dream takes the form of a young girl’s head with eyes closed, seemingly in a dream-like state. It is fabricated in pre-cast concrete, with a white, marble-concrete aggregate mix, so that it has a luminescent finish.
“My work is first and foremost about celebrating life and the human experience of standing in between past and present, present and future, knowledge and ignorance. I fell in love with this site in St Helens as soon as I saw it. The spectacular setting, proud heritage, vision for the future, and the warmth, humour and passion of the former miners I have met are all inspirational. To capture the essence, hopes, and aspirations of a whole community on this scale is a great honour but also a responsibility.” – Jaume Plensa
We also encountered Plensa in Nice last year, where his Conversation in Nice is displayed on the Place Masséna. The square was renovated in 2007, accompanied by the installation of the artwork along the tramway: seven statues devised by Plensa, representing the seven continents.
Jaume Plensa, born in Barcelona in 1955, is one of the leading sculptors in the field of plastic arts. He works in a wide range of media including drawing, sculpture, print-making, opera scenery, video art, acoustic installations, text and light. Plensa is a Catalan artist born in 1955. He’s worked all over the globe and frequently, but not always, uses the human form. He also manipulates the effects of natural elements such as a light and water in his work.
A significant part of Jaume Plensa’s production is set in the context of public sculpture, a sphere in which he has permanent works installed all over the world. The Crown Fountain, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, is one of his latest and most renowned projects. According to Plensa, the Crown Fountain was inspired by the people of Chicago and the city’s historic connection with water, including the Chicago River and the great Lake Michigan. The fountain features two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. Plensa used faces of 1,000 Chicago citizens projected on LED screens, with water seeming to flow from their mouths through a water outlet in the screen. This is in reference to the use of gargoyles from whose mouths water flows out in traditional fountains. Each image is shown from four to five minutes all year round, while the water is on from mid-spring though mid-autumn.
Another work is Blake in Gateshead, a laser beam that on special occasions shines high into the night sky over the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
On 16 June 2008 Jaume’s sculpture Breathing was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, as a memorial to journalists killed whilst undertaking their work. The sculpture in steel and glass is situated above a new wing of BBC Broadcasting House in London. At 22:00 GMT each evening a beam of light is projected from the sculpture extending 1km into the sky for 30 minutes to coincide with the BBC News at Ten.
El Alma del Ebro was created for the International Exposition in Zaragoza, the theme of which was ‘Water and Sustainable Development’. It is eleven metres high, the sculpted letters representing cells of the human body which is over 60% water. Its white letters and hollow structure invite the view to look inside and reflect on the relationship between human beings and water.
Finally, a gallery of some of the other exhibits in Beyond Limits at Chatsworth:
Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped by Henry Moore
Dancers by Fernando Botero
Buddha by Niki De Saint Phalle
Angel of the North (life-size maquette) by Antony Gormley
Air Gets into Everything, Even Nothing by Ugo Rondinone
Mariposas by Manolo Valdes
Ariadna 1 by Manolo Valdes
Archaeology of Desire by Marc Quinn
Narcissus Garden by Yoyoi Kusama