Antony Gormley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'A meme is a cultural analogue to a gene. A form that is transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another, responding to conditional environments, self‐replicating and capable of mutation.' 
    —Antony Gormley

    The artist notes, ‘The miniature or the model allows the totality of a body to be seen at once. These small solid iron works use the formal language of architecture to replace anatomy and construct volumes to articulate the range of 33 body postures. The ambition is to make intelligible forms that form an abstract lexicon of body‐posture but which nevertheless carry the invitation of empathy and the transmission of states mind.’


    ‘The model is inhabitable by our imagination, not by our bodies,’ Richard Pommer once wrote. For Gormley this propensity for the small‐scale model to invite the viewer’s projection into it – an imaginative habitation – is fundamental. ‘Everything I make is in some senses a model … everything has the potential to be both miniaturised and expanded’, he says. A series of works on a reduced scale, made in 2009 – Memes – deploys a standard set of twenty‐seven blocks in different configurations – like sculptural haikus – to describe anatomy, physical and emotional condition, in terms of construction. (The title, Meme, was taken from Richard Dawkins’s term, proposed in his book The Selfish Gene, for a cultural analogue of the gene: ‘forms transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another’).


    The unlimited reconfigurations of the blocks afforded a wide variety of body poses – the full range that had been represented in Critical Mass II, and many more. It began as a playful exploratory exercise in economy of form, testing the expressive potential of different arrangements of simple rectilinear blocks, but it was clear – wandering among the variants, looking down on them, on the floor – that their power to elicit an empathic, even sympathetic response had much to do with their diminutive scale.i

    i Martin Caiger‐Smith, Antony Gormley, Rizzoli, 2017, p. 396

    • Provenance

      White Cube, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from an Important Private Collection



incised with the artist's initials, numbered and dated on the underside
cast iron
20.4 x 8 x 15.6 cm (8 x 3 1/8 x 6 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ♠ †

Sold for £163,800

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022