Artwork in Focus: Field for the British Isles

24 February 2020

In our latest educational film, Antony Gormley reflects on the creation of his iconic work, Field for the British Isles, the largest artwork in the Arts Council Collection. Made by Gormley in 1993 with 100 volunteers at a school in St Helens, Field for the British Isles consists of 40,000 tiny individual terracotta figures and is currently on show at Firstsite in Colchester as part of a National Partners Programme exhibition.

Field for the British Isles is one of Antony Gormley’s best-loved works of art, featuring 40,000 clay figures.  In 1996 Field was purchased by the Arts Council Collection, with the support of the Henry Moore Foundation and the National Art Fund.  Since its acquisition Field has been seen by over 500,000 visitors in Aberystwyth, Carlisle, Colchester, Gateshead, Gloucester, Lincoln, London, Salisbury, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, St Ives, Yorkshire, St Helens, Somerset and in venues as diverse as a trainshed, a church, a cathedral, a gallery, and a warehouse.

Winner of the 1994 Turner Prize, Antony Gormley is renowned for his distinctive representations of the human form. Gormley has described Field as ‘...twenty-five tons of clay energised by fire, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes...a field of gazes which looks at the observer making him or her its subject’. This arresting installation comprises a sea of miniature terracotta figures, clustered together. Some stand out because of their size and character, others are greyer than the earthy reds of the majority. The overall sight is both captivating and mesmerising. The figures were handmade by 100 people, aged seven to 70, from a community in St Helen’s, Merseyside in 1993.  Every time Field is exhibited it takes about a week to install by a team of volunteers.


Watch the full film below.


Field for the British Isles is on show at Firstsite in Colchester until 8 March 2020.



The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.