the iron men : crosby : merseyside

It’s been a while since we’ve visited the permanent sculpture exhibition on Crosby Beach, but it was a place we’d often drive over to from Manchester, if we wanted to get some blowy, fresh air. Called Another Place, it is a piece of modern sculpture by British artist Antony Gormley, featuring 100 cast iron figures, modelled on the artist’s own naked body, facing towards the sea. After being exhibited at three other locations – the beach of Cuxhaven, Germany, Stavanger in Norway and De Panne in Belgium – it was put on display at Crosby in summer 2005. On 7 March 2007, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council decided that the sculptures should be permanently installed at the beach.

The figures stand on the beach, and depending on what time of day you visit, can be fully visible, partly submerged, or if the tide is high and in fully, completely submerged. Eerily, at times like this, you may see a head emerging from the water when the waves roll back – I’d imagine this could be a pretty disconcerting sight if you arrived at the beach and knew nothing of the statues. They are spaced liberally across the beach for about three kilometres and almost a kilometre out to sea. Each iron man faces the water and they are all identical and emotionless. According to Antony Gormley, Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature.

The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.

Parking is available at Burbo Bank car park, by the Crosby Coastguard Station, and the statues stretch out on the beach below. Our only advice would be, if you visit in the winter – wrap up warm, as the wind can be biting. And, watch the tides – they come in fast!

Published on 7th December 2023