Ohas aspect of art that you really can’t get at home – not by looking at it online or even in the most XXL of art books, and especially not with the locked world of symbolic non-fungible artwork – is the pure and sensual thrill of greatness. It’s time to think big, think big, and feel big.
Britain has more than its fair share of awesome art. You could even say that the genre was born here. Neolithic peoples shaped and sculpted the landscapes of these islands into henges, tumuli and hill forts that sowed the idea of making a spectacular mark. Thus, medieval masons erected the great Gothic pinnacle that tops Salisbury Cathedral in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to outdo the neighboring megaliths of Stonehenge. 18th-century landowners, inspired by a vogue for Stonehenge and Avebury, anticipated modern land art by transforming their estates into elaborate works of art with designed views, ornamental temples, and romantic follies. At the end of the 20th century, this great impetus returned. Angel of the North by Antony Gormley broke away from boring good taste to show how art can redefine a place.
Likewise, the off-scale works of Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor prove that size matters: but why? We want to be overwhelmed, to make ourselves feel our own smallness. Thinker Edmund Burke called this sensation “the sublime” and claimed that it is more psychologically powerful than mere beauty. This is certainly why the enveloping works of art that are medieval cathedrals aspire to sublimity: to make you feel a strength greater than yourself. And long after the decline of religious art, we still flock to an “infinity chamber” by Yayoi Kusama (his show of cosmic illusions at Tate Modern is not listed here as it was sold a long time ago. ) as if we were looking for some inexplicable feeling of dread. . The ancients felt much the same when they gathered for the solstice at Stonehenge.
It is a celebration of the art that towers over you, surrounds you and engulfs you.
Break n ° 1: blowtorch biting peach
We like to get lost in an art installation a bit and Phillipson’s colorful environment is the latest oversized commission from the Tate to offer this. This time the venue is Millbank, but this sprawling, multi-faceted piece of art is very much in the Big Art tradition established by the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Maybe she should take this back afterwards. She describes her creation as living architecture, making the gallery an almost organic presence.
Tate Britain, SW1, as of January 23
Size may just be a way to bring art to life. David, sculpted at the beginning of the 16th century, was nicknamed “The Giant” by contemporaries. The life-size Victorian cast iron of the V&A towers over you as does the marble original. But somehow David doesn’t feel like the colossus he is. Instead, exaggerating the waistline makes it easier to see the muscles in his legs, the curve of his rib cage, the veins in his right hand. And this magnification helps Michelangelo achieve something incredible: the illusion of life in cold stone (or in this copy, plaster).
The Virgin Mother
This 10-meter-tall statue is the largest of a group of Hirst sculptures currently occupying the verdant slopes of Britain’s main sculpture park. It is a monument to shock and vulgarity. Yet it’s also a particularly haunting and even beautiful presence. This giant woman has bare skin to reveal a fetus in her womb. Is it horrible? Leonardo da Vinci did much worse and drew a dead human fetus. Hirst amplifies Leonardo’s curiosity about who we are and where we come from.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, nr Wakefield, until April 1
Can a roaring artificial waterfall be a work of art? Well, why the hell not? Our contemporary breadth and experimental freedom in defining art was shared by landowners and gardeners of the past, who sculpted their landscapes into aesthetic installations. Chatsworth Waterfall is one of Britain’s oldest and finest pieces of land art. It was created in the 17th century by a French garden guru, Monsieur Grillet, then rebuilt in the 1700s. Today, it delights everyone who can afford a ticket to these gardens.
Giant Abbas circle
With its limb erected in proportion to its scale on the hillside, it is one of the most surreal works of art in the British landscape. It is also one of the most enigmatic. Chalk figures can be very old or surprisingly new. This arrogant giant suggests an ancient figure of fertility or a modern joke. But recent dating of soil samples reveals that it was made in Saxon times, perhaps by local monks who played with the same coarseness with chalk as in manuscript marginalia.
Cerne Abbas, Dorset
Tino Sehgal at Blenheim Park and Gardens
This Berlin-based human interaction artist doesn’t set out to eclipse anyone with the monumental; or, for that matter, do anything physical. But his latest social performance takes you through one of the most awe-inspiring of all of Britain’s shaped landscapes: a park that includes a huge column commemorating the Battle of Blenheim, a high bridge over the shimmering waters and, at the heart of it all is the extensive surrealist baroque spectacle of Blenheim Palace itself.
Blenheim Park & Gardens, Oxfordshire, July 9 to August 15
Angel of the North
You cannot leave this famous monument off a list of great British arts. He has become one of the most recognizable icons of modern Britain, perhaps even as famous as Stonehenge. Why? Partly because it combines the new and the old, reality and dream in such a simple and daring way. He is an angel, a creature of hope and redemption. And it’s made from industrial steel, speaking of northern industries. But above all, it’s pretty darn big, and you can see it from a great distance.
A1 and A167, Gateshead
Medieval cathedrals are best understood as gesamtkunstwerke or “total works of art”, anticipating today’s installations, combining sculpture, architecture and – above all – the manipulation of light with stained glass in one immense experience. Durham, which began just decades after the Norman Conquest, is one of the most imposing structures of its type on Earth. The view from the bank below is deeply moving and appreciated by romantic painters. Inside, the massively thick Romanesque columns take your breath away.
This life-size cast of the fossilized bones of a giant plant-eating dinosaur has stood for years in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London. Dinosaurs, which we only know from fossils, models, and computer graphics, are the most sublime things in any museum. These are nature’s outsized works of art: real creatures that surpass human fantasy. Dippy is currently on tour and can be seen this summer in the nave of Norwich Cathedral: a fabulous setting for such a surreal beast.
Norwich Cathedral, July 13 to October 30
Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond
This red arterial network rises like a tower of blood above East London. Kapoor is a color genius, an alchemist for integrating dark and deep hues into the human brain. Even without his red paint, the colossus as he created for the London 2012 Olympics, with architect Balmond, would attract attention. It has the chaotic structure of Bruegel’s Tower of Babel combined with the utopian fantasy of Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. The bloody red turns this show into something oddly organic.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20
These 30-meter-high metal horse heads are apparently the largest equine sculpture in the world, fulfilling one of Leonardo da Vinci’s artistic dreams. The great Renaissance mathematician tried to combine art and science to create a colossal bronze horse in Milan. He designed machines to cast it and made a life-size clay model, but it was beyond the technology of the time. Now artist Andy Scott has surpassed him with a feat of engineering that shows just how far we’ve come.
Forth & Clyde Canal, Falkirk
Bridget Riley’s abstract patterns create optical overload and feedback that can skew your perception of what is real and what is not. Yet his vision is rooted in a sustained and serious engagement with the history of art. She looked at pointillist paintings by Seurat, among other treasures in the National Gallery. Its sweeping wall painting in its entrance hall celebrates the immensity of what art is becoming in our minds.
The National Gallery, WC2
Sir James Thornhill
It’s a rare British response to the dizzying ceiling frescoes that stun the mind in Italian churches and German palaces. Calling it Britain’s Sistine Chapel is too much of a hype: Sir James Thornhill, who painted this enormous tribute to the Hanoverian dynasty and the Royal Navy in Greenwich, was no Michelangelo. But the deceptive effects of its sprawling celebration of prospect are a lot of fun. Seashells and pillars seem to spring from the walls and a painted sailboat floats above your fascinated gaze.
Old Royal Naval College, SE10
This great American abstract sculptor not only impresses with size. It makes you feel weight, which is a much more poetic sculptural effect. His towering work outside Liverpool Street Station brings rust-colored raw heavy metal to the heart of the capital. By wedging immense sheets of steel against each other, he creates the tension of a house of cards. This art presses, leans, brings together. With Serra, there is always dynamism and danger.
Broadgate Circle, EC2
The farthest of the many stone circles to be found in the British Isles is also one of the most atmospheric. Tall, slender stones rise up beside the dark, cold water in a constellation of Neolithic remains that also include well-preserved stone dwellings and the bizarre burial chamber of Maes Howe. Maes Howe’s alignment, so that the sunrise in the middle of winter sends a ray of light directly inside, reveals how cosmic and contemplative the culture that raised the Ring of Brodgar was. It was a great country where the sky met the earth.
Stenness, Orkney Islands