I love Gloucester Cathedral; the cold air, the bare stone, the architecture, the history. Awe-inspiring from the outside as well as in, the magnificent structure could be considered art in its own right; a sculpture, perhaps, on the grandest of scales.
Fitting then, that for the second time in four years, Gloucester Cathedral welcomes into its halls a sculpture exhibition of the highest calibre. Running until the end of October, Crucible2 is curated by Gallery Pangolin and showcases the works of world-renowned artists such as Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley. (I know what you’re thinking: Damien Hirst in a cathedral? Dead animals in formaldehyde hanging above the font?!) Though it may seem incongruous to view many of these ‘modern’ pieces within such ethereal surrounds, I feel, mingled amongst the cathedral’s own collection of wall paintings and memorials, stone carvings and stained glass, the exhibition invokes a satisfying sense of inclusiveness; the old enriching the new and vice versa.
Of course Hirst’s work is not without controversy. ‘Fallen Angel’ is positioned in front of the high altar and from a distance you could be forgiven for not instantly recognising the artist’s work. But move closer to the golden statue and the semi-light from the stained glass window behind it highlights the needle by the angel’s kneeling legs, the tourniquet around her arm. There is most certainly a weight added to this piece, a degree of connective emotion, which surely would have lacked intensity had ‘Fallen Angel’ debuted anywhere else.
I visited the exhibition on a Saturday and was both pleased and a little surprised to see that it was business as usual at the cathedral. A wedding was in service and as the bride and groom offered their vows, a flurry of uninvited spectators avidly surveyed the artwork as well as the ceremony. It was a big day too for rugby fans as the imminent arrival and display of the World Cup prompted an influx of men and women in colourful sponsor-clad tops, their excited gazes fixed on both the available artwork and the more elusive (it was fifteen minutes late) trophy.
All in all the experience for me was a thought-provoking one. Though the various events of the day were somewhat distracting, I couldn’t help but feel that art was where art should be – infiltrated into daily life, free and easily accessible to all. And as I took a final tour around the ancient building’s perimeter, gazing up at the intricate stonework and breath-taking stained glass, I felt that there couldn’t be a more apt –or beautiful – place for such an outstanding exhibition to be held.
•For more information visit http://www.crucible2.co.uk or follow @crucible2sculp or @GalleryPangolin on Twitter.
• Photos (clockwise from top left): Fallen Angel, by Damien Hirst; Nduda, Realidad & Nahuiollin, by Sarah Lucas; Whalebone Casket, by Steve Dilworth; Adam, by David Bailey; Sitting Couple on Bench, by Lynn Chadwick; Greek Horse, by William Tucker.