Antony Gormley: Field for the British Isles goes to Firstsite

21 October 2019

The world-famous Field for the British Isles, by Sir Antony Gormley is to go to Arts Council Collection National Partner gallery, Firstsite in Essex.

Field for The British Isles, which consists of 40,000 tiny individual terracotta figures, is the largest single artwork in the Arts Council Collection and was made by Gormley in 1993 with 100 volunteers who were each given a portion of clay and instructions for the size and shape he wanted for the figures.

After being acquired by the Arts Council Collection in 1995, Field for the British Isles has been exhibited at a variety of venues across the UK, including Salisbury Cathedral, Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (see below) and Tate, St Ives. At each location, the configuration of Field is changed to suit the space, but the thousands of small figures are always arrayed to resemble a dense carpet, with each figure looking directly at the viewer. In Firstsite the figures will swarm through the rear half of the building, including throughout the main gallery spaces, inescapable and seemingly endless.

Gormley himself said of the mesmerising artwork: “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.”

Firstsite Director Sally Shaw said;

"Field for the British Isles comprises 40,000 figures and there are 40,000 children and young people living in Colchester. This work is an ideal way to represent the scale of the local population and the responsibility adults have to ensure that Colchester’s youngsters are given every opportunity and the necessary support to fulfil their potential.”


Jill Constantine, Director of the Arts Council Collection said; 

Field for the British Isles remains one of the most ambitious works we have acquired and is one of our most loved and admired. Since acquisition we have shown this work a staggering 17 times and it has become the work which the Arts Council Collection is most widely associated with.  We are delighted to have the opportunity to share the work once more with the people of Colchester, 20 years after it was first shown here.”

The artwork echoes and underlines Firstsite’s abiding vision of creativity, equality and opportunities for all. Installation of this monumental art work at Firstsite will be achieved by a team of community volunteers. Access to the exhibition is free of charge.

The arrival of Field follows a momentous 12-months for Firstsite, having been selected as an Arts Council Collection National Partner for three years. Firstsite has also won NHS and Arts Council England funding to ensure low income families can be welcomed and engaged at the gallery through its unique Holiday Fun programme. Holiday Fun enables all children to enjoy art, food and sports activities throughout the school holidays. It is a programme whose notion of social prescription and cultural engagement has been hailed as a national example and one which will be taken across the region by the gallery.

The arrival of Field cements Firstsite’s reputation as a champion of equality. As critic Adrian Searle says: “This close-packed crowd…a sea at one's feet, is a reminder that the world's entire population could stand on the Isle of Wight shoulder to shoulder... Gormley has said that one of the resonances of this work is that it is a reminder that there is only one humanity.”

The exhibition shows at Firstsite Gallery 16 Nov 2019 - 8 March 2020. 

See the exhibition page here.


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.