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Antony Gormley on How Sculpture Shapes the World

The artist explored the universal human drive to form stone, clay, wood and metal into shapes and tackled the questions: What is sculpture? What is humanity?

Antony Gormley is probably the UK’s best known sculptor, famous for his Angel of the North in Gateshead and for the life-sized casts of his naked body that have appeared in works such as Another Place on Crosby Beach. In January 2021 he came to Intelligence Squared to give an illustrated talk on his new book, Shaping the World: Sculpture from Prehistory to Now, in which he argued that sculpture is more than just an art form – it is a way of physical thinking that can change the way people feel and make them encounter the world around them in a completely different way.

Drawing on examples from all over the world, dating from thousands of years ago right up to the present, Gormley explained how sculpture has been practised by every culture in the world. The first surviving shaped stones may even predate the advent of language. In conversation with cultural historian Shahidha Bari, Gormley took us on a visual journey, beginning  with the Venus of Hohle Fels, the oldest depiction of a human being, through Rodin’s The Kiss, to Adrián Villar Rojas’ Today We Reboot the Planet. 


Praise for Shaping the World: Sculpture from Prehistory to Now:

‘If you want to rethink your ideas about sculpture, this fascinating book will give you pause for thought on just about every page … a mighty, lusciously produced tome.’ – Financial Times

I lost myself in your book – it seemed to be about my world’ – Carlo Rovelli, physicist



Sir Antony Gormley

Distinguished British artist and sculptor

Distinguished British artist and sculptor. He won the Turner Prize in 1994 and has been a Royal Academician since 2003. Gormley is one of the most critically respected artists working internationally, with works that have universal resonance.

Shahidha Bari

Writer, academic and broadcaster

Professor of Fashion Cultures and Histories at London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts London, and a Fellow of the Forum for Philosophy at the London School of Economics. She is a regular presenter of the BBC Radio 3's Arts and Ideas programme, Free Thinking, and an occasional presenter of BBC Radio 4's Front Row and Saturday Review. She contributes to Aeon, The Financial Times, Frieze art magazine, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times Literary Supplement and other publications. She is the author of Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes.


Speakers subject to change.