Amazing tiny terracotta army of 40,000 people goes on display

Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles is being shown at the Firstsite, Colchester. Picture: A

Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles is being shown at the Firstsite, Colchester. Picture: ANTONY GORMLEY - Credit: ANTONY GORMLEY

A sculpture of 40,000 tiny terracotta figures by Sir Antony Gormley is on display in Colchester - with the Angel Of The North sculptor calling it a “call to conscience”.

Field For The British Isles was made in 1993 from around 50 tonnes of brick clay by more than 100 volunteers at a secondary school.

It is now back on show at Firstsite in Colchester after 30 people spent four days putting each of the tiny figures in place.

The display, which was installed by Gurkhas, students and members of a Bangladeshi women's organisation, will now be on show at the Firstsite for four months, until March 8, 2020.

Asked whether some of the tiny clay individuals had been stolen in the past, Sir Antony said: "I think some of these go walkabout, but that's understandable.

"There is not one that is like another."

The Turner Prize winner said it was impossible to pick a favourite, adding: "How can you? It's a bit like asking a parent who their favourite child is."

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He said the figures "are looking at us and asking us: 'What kind of world are you making? What are we doing?'"

The initial volunteers who made the sculpture were given just one simple instruction - "hand-sized, stand up and have eyes".

Firstsite director Sally Shaw said: "I think this is probably the most important artwork we could be showing in the UK.

"It's about community and being together and also about thousands and thousands of individual people."

She joked about visitors getting close up to the fragile piece, saying: "I am more worried about adults coming in.

"Children are very excited about it. They stop and lie down on the floor to be on a level with it...

"What I love about it is there are 40,000 figures and 40,000 children and young people living in Colchester. It's an opportunity to visualise that community. It's very powerful.

"I'd invite everyone to come. It might be another 20 years before we show it again. This is the kind of artwork this gallery was made for."

The exhibition is the largest single artwork in the Arts Council collection and will be uniquely arranged for a one-of-a-kind display in Colchester.

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