Antony Gormley bears Witness at British Library

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 December 2011
A photo of a man crouching next to a brown sculpted chair in a library courtyard
Antony Gormley takes a look at his chair outside the entrance to London's British Library© Clare Kendall
An empty chair symbolising imprisoned writers around the world will stand permanently in the courtyard entrance to the British Library in London in a new commission by Antony Gormley for literature champions English PEN.

Witness, a lifesize cast iron version of the chair symbol used by PEN during its work with confined creative wordsmiths around the world during the past 30 years, has been made by the celebrated sculptor to mark the 90th anniversary of the organisation.

"This is a place of witness," said Gormley, whose work will accompany Planets, the set of one-tonne granite Swedish boulders he moved into the space in 2002.

"It is cast in massive iron that will simply rest, isolated, for anyone or no-one to occupy."

Founded in 1921, PEN – which originally stood for Poets, Essayists and Novelists and counted HG Wells and Joseph Conrad among its earliest members – promotes literature as a form of harmony between cultures across the world, incorporating a wide range of public events.

The chair is intended to represent writers unable to attend the annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer through detainment, threats or murder.

"Antony Gormley has generously created a sculpture that plays off the symbolism of PEN's empty chair," said Gllian Slovo, the President of English PEN.

"It will stand as tribute to, and reminder of, those writers who, because of censorship and tyranny, are not free to go to any library either in their countries or in ours.

"At the same time it recognises the work of PEN branches throughout the world in service of free expression."

Pictures of Witness:

A photo of a man crouching behind a sculpted iron chair in a courtyard
The sculpture joins Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's Newton on the piazza© Clare Kendall
A photo of a sculpted iron chair in a courtyard on a bright day
Dame Lynne Brindley, of the Library, called the commission "a poignant project"© Clare Kendall
A photo of a sculpted chair in a courtyard outside a library entrance on a bright day
PEN event The Day of the Imprisoned Writers encourages writers to commemorate colleagues who have been persecuted© Clare Kendall
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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