DELOS, Greece – A tiny Greek island that has been uninhabited for thousands of years has been given a new lease of life with a set of Antony Gormley rusty sculptures that mingle with the ancient ruins, the British artist told EFE on Monday.
Delos, a granite rock five kilometers long and one and a half kilometer wide, is the stage of this unlikely exhibition titled “Sight.”
Gormley, born in London in 1950, has repopulated the small island with 29 sculptures which he has created over the last 20 years, five of which have been designed especially for this installation.
“The site is the exhibition. My sculpture is just little bits of acupuncture that I’ve tried to put in the right place in order to reenergize the site but the site is the exhibition,” he said.
“The sky is the exhibition. The time of the viewer is the exhibition.
“But is it an exhibition? I’m not sure it’s an exhibition. I think it is something else. It is a kind of experiment.”
Delos, a short boat ride away from the island of Mikonos, was an emblematic spot in Greek mythology.
According to ancient legends, it was the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, the twin children of Zeus and his lover Letos.
The island was first inhabited in around 2,500 BC and a sanctuary to Apollo was built in around 900 BC.
The island’s golden age took place during the Archaic period, 8th century BC to 480 BC, and Classical period, 5th and 4th centuries BC, during which time Greeks would flock there to pay homage to their god Apollo.
Elina Kunturi, co-curator of the exhibition and director of NEON, the organization in charge of its development, told EFE that after visiting the site to decide which artist would fit in with the environment she immediately thought of Gormley.
“The whole of the exhibition occupies the whole of Delos which is the first time that a contemporary art exhibition is being shown after 5,000 years of actual activity on Delos,” she said.
“We decided to activate the whole site from the northern to the southern end you can find naturalistic figures acting as sentinels of the sacred island.”
The 29 rusty colored sculptures, some figurative and others abstract, are scattered around the island creating a hauntingly beautiful installation.
Several faithful depictions of the human form look out onto the horizon, whilst others sprawl on the ground.
The abstract deconstructed depictions of the human form resemble boxy lego shapes and pixelated versions of bodies in stark contrast with the ancient archaeological site, 60 percent of which remains unearthed.
The sculptures at times interact with the ruins.
On one occasion a figure looks down into a well, another lies across the floor surrounded by ancient marble derelict sculptures.
Kunturi said that Gormley’s way of examining the human body within space was key in her choice of the artist, adding that she considered his work would be a great sounding board for ancient history and could offer viewers insights into ancient art.
The UK artist has several permanent sculptural installations, including the “Angel of the North” (1998) which features a massive 20-meter tall steel winged monument in Gateshead, northern United Kingdom, and the giant 26-meter tall crouching man titled “Exposure” (2010) built from metal and perched in the central Netherlands.
His artworks on Delos are the only ones that have been approved to remain on the island until October.
Delos receives some 100,000 tourists each year but no one can stay overnight.
By October, Gormley’s sculptures will be removed without a trace, leaving the island intact and its ancient archaeological gems frozen in time.