Lot 3
  • 3


150,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Barry Flanagan
  • Acrobats
  • signed with monogram, numbered no 3 and dated 81
  • bronze
  • height (including Artist's integral base): 149cm.; 58¾in.
  • Conceived in 1981 and cast by 1982, the present work is number 3 from the edition of 3 plus 3 Artist's casts.


Waddington Galleries Ltd, London, where acquired by the late owners, 1982


London, Waddington Galleries, Barry Flanagan: Sculptures in Bronze 1980-1981, December 1981, un-numbered exhibition, illustrated p.28 (another cast);
Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, British Council, Aspects of British Art Today, February - April 1982, cat. no.75, illustrated p.111 (another cast), with tour to Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Utsunomiya; National Museum of Art, Osaka; Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka; and Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo;
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Zeitgeist: Internationale Kunst, October - December 1982, cat. no.79, illustrated p.115 (another cast);
Venice, British Council, British Pavilion, XXXX Venice Biennale, Barry Flanagan: Stone and Bronze Sculptures, June - September 1982, cat. no.24 (this cast), with tour to Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld; and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; 
Paris, British Council, Centre Georges Pompidou, Barry Flanagan Sculptures, March - May 1983, un-numbered exhibition, illustrated, p.64 (another cast);
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Dialog, September - October 1985, un-numbered exhibition, illustrated p.67 (another cast);
London, Waddington Custot Galleries, Two Pataphysicians: Flanagan - Miró, October - November 2014, cat. no.15, illustrated p.47 (another cast). 


The sculpture appears sound. There is some minor pitting and a small number of tiny casting imperfections. There is some possible casting residue to some of the crevices. There are a small number of flecks of oxidisation in places. The patina has slight variation, in keeping with the Artist's intentions. There is some rubbing to the extremities, most evident to the torso of the upper hare. There is surface dirt to creviced areas. This excepting, the work appears in excellent overall condition. The work has an integral Artist's bronze base. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Barry Flanagan was born in North Wales in 1941, and began his art studies at Birmingham College of Art and Crafts (1957-58) before continuing to St Martin’s School of Art, first as a student (1964-66) and then as a teacher (1967-71). Whilst at St Martin’s, he attended Antony Caro’s famed sculpture classes, alongside Bruce McLean and Gilbert & George. Two of Caro’s most celebrated students, Philip King and John Latham, were also his tutors and he designed the invitations for Latham’s notorious Still and Chew performance piece in August 1966. During the 1960s and 1970s Flanagan counted amongst his friends and collaborators a number of the most avant-garde international artists of his day, including Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth, Eva Hesse, Walter De Maria and Richard Long to name but a few, artists practicising across sculpture, land art, conceptual art, arte povera and performance art: Flanagan was the only British artist to be included in the seminal exhibition encompassing these new art forms, Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (Works – Concepts – Processes – Situations – Information) at the Kunsthalle Bern and the ICA.  

Flanagan cast his first hare in 1979 and exhibited a leaping hare at Documenta 7 in Kassel in 1982, introducing the animal to a global audience. The hare is indelibly associated with Flanagan’s career. The Leaping Hare, the 1972 book by George Eward Evans and David Thomson, was of fundamental importance to Flanagan’s adoption of the creature. An anthropological study of the hare, the book weaves together legends, mythologies, and superstitions from across the world, and gamekeepers and poachers’ anecdotes. Flanagan has said of the hare, ‘I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a vehicle to entertain. I abstract from the human figure, choosing the hare to behave as a human occasionally’ (Barry Flanagan, quoted in Enrique Juncosa, Barry Flanagan Sculpture 1965-2005, exh. cat., Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006, p.65).


Flanagan’s Acrobats of 1981 particularly summons the hare as mischievous and playful, the anthropomorphic realisation of the human capacity for lightheartedness and frivolity. In their elaborate balancing act, the hares are poised in space, perfectly positioned in a fleeting pose captured permanently in bronze. Ten years previously, Flanagan had collaborated with the dance group Strider in London to choreograph two dance pieces, and movement, balance and dance or dance elements are ever present in his hares. Through those hares that delight in the joy of living, leaping and dancing, Flanagan harnesses the humour present in much of the work by his contemporaries in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Bruce McLean, Gilbert & George and Richard Long, presented in bronze. Mel Gooding has seen in the playful hare, the personification of ‘homo ludens, emblems of creativity and of mischievous disregard…for regulated order. (In this sense they are self-portraits, and very like, in fact.)’ (Mel Gooding, ‘First Catch Your Hare: An Essaying in Four Unequal Parts and a Coda, with a Salutation’ in Barry Flanagan Sculpture 1965-2005, op. cit., p.179). Anarchic, subversive, shape-shifting, transgressive and yet delightful and jubilant, the acrobatic hare does indeed seem remarkably familiar to Flanagan himself.


The present cast was included in Flanagan’s 1982 Venice Biennale exhibition representing Britain.