Anthony Caro – well, actually it's Sir Anthony Caro – has been making monumental sculptures for the past six decades. During a career that's spanned the changing landscape of sculptural practice, his works have been exhibited in major galleries, but also outside in Canary Wharf and in the more rural setting of Chatsworth House.
His most recent ‘Park Avenue Series', currently on view at Gagosian Britannia Street, came out of an unsuccessful public art commission in the Big Apple. After being given the key to the city of New York back in the 1980s, Caro was asked if he would create a sculpture for the city. Considerate of the Park Avenue site, he proposed an exceptionally long sculpture that, running for a good few blocks, could be appreciated from both a moving car or at street level. Unfortunately the ambitious proposal proved to be too expensive and the funds couldn’t be raised. As Caro put it: ‘I was just working on fundraising and not on the sculpture. So I said, “If I can’t raise the funds by September I’m going to chuck this.” So I chucked it.’
Here he talks about his career working with big pieces of metal and not wanting to take anything for granted.
Since the mid-1960s Caro has worked with this industrial material.
‘Steel is such a nice material to use,’ he says. ‘It can move. It’s terribly easy, you just stick it or you cut it off, and bang! you’re there: it’s so direct. I think Manet was very direct, he didn’t prepare his canvases like Courbet, he just put paint straight on and it’s very like that with steel.’
The size of Caro’s abstract sculptures is crucial to the viewer’s spatial relationship with the work.
‘Scale is very, very important, like the scale of a person is very important,’ he explains. ‘It’s to do with the size of our space, the fact they are big sculptures, they are still human scale.’
Caro was once referred to as a radical who was upsetting the establishment, but now he is part of that establishment.
‘I don’t want to take anything for granted and I never did in the old days,’ he says. ‘I would like to continue being radical. As you get older, some of the world catches up and it’s passed you. In the ’60s you were on the crest of a wave because you were part of the wave. I don’t want be a stick in the mud and do the same thing as I did last year, I want to do something different and see what happens.’
‘Park Avenue Series’
Caro’s latest sculptures on view at Gagosian Gallery came out of a failed public art commission in New York.
‘About ten to 12 years ago I made a proposal for a very long sculpture, which would take up three city blocks,’ he says. ‘The funds couldn’t be raised, but I had already made quarter-scale models. The Park Avenue project was the starting point for these sculptures.’