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Travel and sculpture: Medicine Hat


Greek art made real
Anthony Caro Artist
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And then, after that, to Olympia. And then one day we came to a little road into the tombs... to the tombs, and there was a sort of... there were holes in the ground and a bit of corrugated iron over them. We said, ‘What's that big hole?’ ‘That's where the horses were buried.’ ‘And what was found here?’ ‘Well, when you go to Athens, you go to the museum; you'll see the gold that comes out of here.’ I mean, it was so real, it was so real, and it's never been real like that, these things in museums. They had never been real. And then one time, much later, when I went to Naxos and went up into the hills and there was this orchard with a great big Kouros, broken leg... with a broken leg, about fourteen feet, enormous one. And it was lying on the ground where it had fallen, where it had… where it had fallen and broken its leg. I mean obviously they were getting the damn thing down the hill and somebody said, ‘Steady, steady, watch it!’ You know. And it had gone; it had fallen and broken its leg and they'd left it there. It was so real, that, and, had it been taken up and put in a museum, it would have become precious in some way. And Greece was not precious; it was... you saw it going from that very first beginning of those rough old stones which weren't carved at all, through the archaic and through to the classical, and even beyond the classical into the more decadent stuff. You saw the history of it, very short history. It came to life, it came to life. Unbelievable sculpture; marvellous.

[Q] And what impact did that have on the way that you worked?

It blew my mind and it made me, first of all, obviously try and do some sort of Greek things like the... the "After Olympia", the sculpture which, you know... and the "Rape of the Sabines" and... and these sort of metope things. It made... it had an obvious effect on my work but I think it also slowed it down and made it more classical, made it more... less romantic and more sort of... more digested, perhaps, which is, in the end, a good way – not the only way, but a good way to go. It was a great experience and I mean I'm... you know, I love seeing these things. I love going to Greece and I love the Greek museums; the little museums in some of the places are marvellous – there are some marvellous things. There isn't an awful lot; there's not an awful lot of the art about, but it's... it’s first rate and its colour, its lightness and... and the light of Greece and so on, it all... it all fits, and in a way, you know, the destruction of it is seen in the Royal Academy corridors down below where it's all casts, and it's painted brown and so on. It's... it’s like the destruction of... of the real thing which is so great.

British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013) came to prominence in 1963 after a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Keen to create a more direct interaction with the viewer he placed pieces directly on the ground, rather than on plinths, a technique now widely used. He held many honorary degrees and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster and art historian. He founded "Tate: The Art Magazine" in 1993 and was presenter of Radio 4 arts programme "Kaleidoscope" from 1991 to 1998, for which he won a Sony Award. He has presented art programme's on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including a documentary about JMW Turner, and written about art and culture for various British newspapers and magazines including "The Guardian", "The Times" and "Blueprint" He is Director of Exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London as well as a visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art, an examiner on the Sculpture MA there and former creative director of Sculpture at Goodwood

Tags: Olympia, Athens, Naxos, After Olympia, Rape of the Sabines, Royal Academy

Duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008