Imperial College London concerned over ‘phallic’ Antony Gormley sculpture

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Imperial College London’s union has some concerns about the Antony Gormley structure.  (Imperial College London)
Imperial College London’s union has some concerns about the Antony Gormley structure. (Imperial College London)

Imperial College Union has some concerns about Antony Gormley’s six-metre tall sculpture ALERT, saying it may "hurt the image and reputation of the college".

A British sculptor and draftsman, Gormley is best known for his work with human forms, which he created chiefly from casts of his own naked body. He has a particular interest in the space we occupy within and without our bodies.

This particular Gormley sculpture was gifted by Imperial College London’s alumnus Brahmal Vasudevan, founder and chief executive of private equity firm Creador, and his wife Shanthi Kandiah.

But the university’s union is concerned that the sculpture may be misinterpreted and could be deemed inappropriate.

What is the backlash against the Gormley sculpture?

The sculpture made of stacked cantilevered steel blocks is meant to resemble a squatting human figure and is set to be installed this summer in the university’s Dangoor Plaza.

In a statement about the statue on the university’s website, Gormley said: “Through the conversion of anatomy into an architectural construction I want to re-assess the relation between body and space.

The union suggested that the Gormley sculpture could be misinterpreted. (Imperial College Union)
The union suggested that the Gormley sculpture could be misinterpreted. (Imperial College Union)

“Balancing on the balls of the feet while squatting on its haunches and surveying the world around it the attitude of this sculpture is alive, alert and awake.”

The union raised concerns that the name could be understood as referring to the sculpture’s phallus as "being erect".

It also added that while there is nothing "inherently wrong" with phallic imagery in art, the statue could be considered inappropriate for a grand display.

They believe that the phallic interpretation may be seen as "exclusionary", due to the gender ratio of students and staff at the university.

Official university statistics show that 41.8% of the full-time students at Imperial College were female in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Gormley’s previous works include the Angel of the North in Gateshead, Another Place on Crosby Beach in Liverpool and the large-scale public sculpture installation Event Horizon, first displayed in London and later in in New York, downtown São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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