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Critics don't worry artist

2009-10-12 22:14

Beijing - The sometimes scathing reviews of British artist Antony Gormley's public art installation in London's Trafalgar Square are just proof, he said, that it's been as challenging for audiences as he hoped it would be.

"If it wasn't disturbing to people, it wouldn't be doing its job. If it isn't contentious and doesn't get a mixed reaction, it's totally failing," Gormley said on Sunday while visiting Beijing to set up his first solo installation in China.

The piece in Trafalgar Square draws to a close on Wednesday after nearly three months of allowing members of the British public to become art. Over 100 days, 2 400 ordinary people were given a chance to climb atop the seven metre high stone plinth and hang out there for an hour doing as they liked - some stripped and some shouted, others just sat.

A live internet broadcast of One & Other attracted millions of viewers, and people from around Britain travelled to London to take part in or watch it. One columnist described it as "a life-affirming portrait revealing Britain's better side".

But, the show has also drawn its fair share of harsh comments. Art critic Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian in September that it was "a sad, feeble, ineffectual excuse for a public sculpture".

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Gormley, one of Britain's most popular artists, best known for the Angel of the North, a giant sculpture of a figure with outstretched arms that stands beside a highway in northeast England, said he was surprised by the passion of Jones' critique, but he felt vindicated by the "open-mindedness with which the public have embraced the work".

In an artsy area of a Beijing suburb, the artist installed a floating human figure of whale-sized proportions made out of linked steel pieces and suspended in air with 682 crisscrossing bungee cords. It took five people more than two weeks to get the figure into position and make it stable, Gormley said.

He is now trying to get permission from the Ministry of Culture to do something more interactive in China, he said, but declined to divulge details of the proposed piece.

He said a dream project would be to remove the revolutionary leader Mao Zedong from his tomb on Tiananmen Square and let ordinary people lay in that space for an hour at a time.

"That kind of exercise might be very interesting," he said with a smile. "I think the possibility of it being realised is slim."