October 3, 2008 / 1:47 PM / 10 years ago

Serra brings giant steel sculptures to London

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - American sculptor Richard Serra has put his giant steel creations on show in London for the first time in 16 years with an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery comprising three new works and a series of drawings.

A sculpture entitled 'TTI London' by artist Richard Serra is displayed during the unveiling of his new exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London October 3, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

The show, which runs from October 4 to December 20, took two years to plan and prepare for, unsurprising given the scale of the steel sculptures which visitors can wander around and through, and the fact that they weigh dozens of tonnes each.

The first room contains a two-part work called “TTI London” (2007), two giant rust-colored steel funnels with thick curved walls that lean variously inwards and outwards and with openings that allow people to contemplate the piece from inside.

Next door is “Open Ended” (2007-8), a monolithic gray-black labyrinth which from one side feels like a visit to a shipyard as the outside wall curves overhead.

Once inside the narrow walkways can be disorienting, while the view from above in promotional photographs is suggestive of the petals of a flower.

The final sculpture is “Fernando Pessoa” (2007-8), named after a Portuguese poet.

Unlike Serra’s trademark curves and swirls, the work is a solid slab of steel that seems to divide the room in two.

“We built the space hoping we would one day be able to do a show with Richard,” said Mark Francis, director of Gagosian Gallery. “He came to see the space two years ago so he could consider which pieces would work.”

At a press briefing, Serra, who was born in 1939, said it would be difficult for a new artist to succeed with the kind of works he creates, because their scale, and the fact that many are made for public spaces, make them difficult to market.

“My work is not market-driven,” he said. “I’m interested in invention of form — the context has to do with location and site, the context is not the market. I think that is a problem for artists starting out today.”

Francis said that the problem was one of scale and no more.

“He is not in essence any different from other artists, it is just more difficult because he works on an extreme scale,” he told Reuters. “You can’t necessarily have a work like this in your suburban back yard.

“We do exhibitions in order to show the work of the artists with which we work,” he added. Serra and gallery owner Larry Gagosian have collaborated frequently in the past.

“You have to show them for people to want them.”

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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