Anthony Caro, story of the sculptor who inspired the Pritzker Prizes

It always refers to Anthony Caro as one of the most prominent sculptors of his time. Which is reductive, given the transversal contribution that he has been able to give to art, architecture and the emotional definition of space. To the Pitzhanger Manor & Galleryformer country house in the neoclassical style of the famous English architect John Soane in London, the exhibition describing this intersection is running until September. Is titled Anthony Caro: The Inspiration of Architecture and tells the radical, pioneering and liberating approach towards methods and materials, which changed the definition of sculpture and its potential. For Caro, sculpting includes the difference between inside and outside, in a three-dimensionality that takes into consideration openness, comparison, volumetric closure and scale. A true architectural synthesis.


And to think that his father was convinced that his son would never make money with art. She wanted a different career for him, perhaps the more pragmatic and secure one of the engineer, for which Caro has followed formal studies. Nothing less circumspect and more denied. There sculpitecturea portmanteau of sculpture and architecture coined by Caro, has actually materialized in the collaborations with the architects, all Pritzker Prize winners, from Frank Gehry to Tadao Ando and Norman Foster. AND endless, then, the plethora of other giants who have found inspiration in his work. Last but not least, our Renzo Piano: in some of his projects, especially those in London such as the Shard skyscraper and the colorful Central St. Giles, the influences of the English artist are clear – although not declared.


Over 60s and 70s the shapes of the pieces of steel that the artist found guided the final result of the work. Give him 80s, his work has expanded to a wider and more complex range of materials. Which are effectively those of the building industry – wood, concrete, steel again, with a use of color assisted by his wife, the pittrice Sheila Girling. Finally the consecration, with la major retrospective ever dedicated to Caro inaugurated in 1995 at the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. For the occasion it is even uncomfortable Tadao Ando (opening photo), author of the building and, in agreement with the artist, of the exhibition set-up, made of beds of rocks as support and inclined walls, specially conceived to enhance the spatial tension of the 113 works on display, both inside ‘inside and outside.


Returning to Europe, the one that took the name of Chapel of Light it is certainly his most complex project, with which Caro has treated a sacred place in an unconventional, unprecedented way: in 1999, he was given carte blanche to intervene in the Church of St. Jean-Baptiste, in Bourbourg, France. A gothic religious building not far from Calais, lost in a fire caused by the crash of a military plane at the beginning of World War II, then restored.

The artist has created a group of in different materials (oak wood, concrete, corten, steel and bronze). seventeen elements: from the sculpture that marks the entrance to the door to Tower of Evening and the Tower of Morning, the modern pulpits that allow the spatial experience from different heights, to the baptismal font, to the figurative group dedicated to nature as a metaphor for God, up to the benches. To these are added five others, closely linked to the liturgy: the tabernacle, the altar, the candelabra, the lecterns and the cross. Perhaps no one like him could succeed in such an intense and moving space management, at the same time rough and soft in the spirit of light.

The Tower of Evening and the Tower of Morning in the Chapel of Light, 2001-2008. Photo John Riddy, © Anthony Caro Center

Caro has always loved architecture, even though he hated the work of an architect, especially for those non-strictly creative aspects that had to do with bureaucracy and project management. But perhaps not everyone knows that the true inventor of the silhouette of the Millennium Bridge in London it was really Caro. According to the brief, the footbridge over the Thames, which since the early 2000s has connected St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern like a guitar string (that’s the idea), was to arise from the relationship between an artist and an architect. And that’s exactly what happened, with Caro working with Norman Foster and engineer Chris Wise.


In the 1980s, with the collector and philanthropist Robert Loder, he launched the Triangle Network, a workshop for artists which in the 1987 edition saw the participation of the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The goal was the construction of “the city” in two weeks, an experimental wooden village in Upstate New York, United States, not far from Caro’s American “base”. Today the English artist’s work and legacy are preserved and promoted by theAnthony Caro Centre, archive and exhibition space based in what used to be his studio, a former piano factory in London’s Camden Town area. A place that deserves a visit, to rediscover the above and the thread of the story of the exhibition at the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery.

Anthony Caro: The Inspiration of Architecture
dove: Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, Ealing Green, London W5 5EQ
when: from 9 March to 10 September 2023

Anthony Caro Centre
dove: Barford Sculptures Ltd, Georgiana St, London NW1 0EB (by appointment)


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