Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Antony Gormley
B. 1950
3mm square section stainless steel bar
210 by 150 by 240 cm. 82 5/8 by 59 by 94 1/2 in.
Executed in 2007.
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White Cube, London
Private Collection, United Kingdom
Sotheby's, London, 17 October 2014, Lot 49
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Hayward Gallery, Antony Gormley: Blind Light, May - August 2007, p. 129 (text)
Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, on loan to the permanent collection, 2007-14

Catalogue Note

A seminal work from Antony Gormley’s acclaimed major retrospective Antony Gormley: Blind Light at The Hayward, London in 2007, Exergy II is one of the most important and exciting hanging sculptures by the artist ever to appear at auction. With a distinguished provenance, having previously been loaned to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the present work is an exceptional example of the artist’s significant Exposed Expansion series. A complex geometrical matrix that spans over two metres in height, Exergy IIis meticulously comprised of numerous intricate small square section steel bars that endow the piece with a soft, cloud-like haze. At the centre of the three-dimensional linear structure resides a corporeal void in an almost foetal position that is demarcated by an open network of polygons. The relative spatial dimensions between the angular elements of the structure continually adjust as we move around the work, thereby setting a kinetic dynamism of apparent movement against the fixed stasis of the trapped figure-void.

As in Gormley’s most important works, Exergy II primarily deals with the concept of the human body as a site rather than as an object and explores the relationship between mass and space. In thermodynamics, the “exergy” of a system is the maximum useful work possible during a process that brings the system into equilibrium. Determining exergy was also the first goal of thermodynamics. The term exergy was coined in 1956 by chemical engineer and scientist Zoran Rant (1904–1972). Exergy is a combination property of a system and its environment because it depends on the state of both the system and environment.

Gormley’s art is informed by a deep understanding of both Eastern and Western spiritualties, mediated through inspiration derived from recent developments in physics. The present work is a perfect manifestation of his ongoing investigations into the harmonious marriage of mind and matter. As the artist explains, "I want to confront existence... I turn to the body in an attempt to find a language that will transcend the limitations of race, creed and language, but which will still be about the rootedness of identity" (Antony Gormley quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Testing a World View: Antony Gormley, 1993, p.  49).

The Exposed Expansion works are some of the most open and intriguing body structures that Gormley has ever created. As Gormley declares, they are “neither architecture nor anatomy, they are more like the random matrices found in fractal geometry. Though some body shapes may be immediately apparent among the froth-like polyhedrons, others will only manifest themselves slowly, over time, as we move around them… In these dematerialised works the bodies are free, lost in space, weightless, and with no internal determination. They appear as emergent zones: you cannot be sure whether the bubble matrix is produced by the body zone or the zone by the matrix” (Antony Gormley, Exposed Expansion Works, 2007–08, online resource). As such, Exergy II is perhaps the one of the closest examples that the artist gets to his ultimate aim of dissolving mass and matter into light.

Contemporary Art Day Auction