EU shipping is temporarily suspended

Shaping the World

Sculpture from Prehistory to Now

Antony Gormley, Martin Gayford


Leading sculptor Antony Gormley, informed and energised by a lifetime of making, and art critic and historian Martin Gayford, explore the central role of sculpture in the development of human culture from prehistory to the present day

See Inside


Sculpture is the universal art. It has been practised by every culture throughout the world and stretches back into the distant past. The first surviving shaped stones may even predate the advent of language. The drive to form stone, clay, wood and metal into shapes evidently runs deep in our psyche and biology. This links the question ‘What is sculpture?’ to the question ‘What is humanity?’

In this wide-ranging book, two complementary voices – one belonging to an artist who looks to Asian and Buddhist traditions as much as to Western sculptural history, the other to a critic and historian – consider how sculpture has been central to the evolution of our potential for thinking and feeling. Sculpture cannot be seen in isolation as an aesthetic pursuit; it is related to humankind’s compelling urge to make its mark on the landscape, to build, make pictures, practise religion and develop philosophical thought.

Drawing on examples from thousands of years BCE to now, and from around the globe, the authors treat sculpture as a transnational art form with its own compelling history. They take into account materials and techniques, and consider overarching themes such as space, light and darkness. Above all, they discuss their view of sculpture as a form of physical thinking capable of altering the way people feel and of inviting them to look at sculpture they encounter and more broadly the world around them in a completely different way.

Read More


'The sculptor and the art critic have redefined the [art] form '
Sunday Times

'If you want to rethink your ideas about sculpture, this fascinating book will give you pause for thought on just about every page ... a mighty, lusciously produced tome ... You can lose yourself in just looking at the illustrations'
Financial Times

'The quality of production does full justice to the superb content …there’s a strong sense of a continuous narrative driven by shared enthusiasm and common, though not always parallel, ground'

'I lost myself in your book – it seemed to be about my world'
Carlo Rovelli, physicist and author of 'There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important'

'Very informative'
V&A Magazine

'A fully illustrated journey across time and space … a volume about relishing not just the range and variety, but also the power and possibilities of the discipline it discusses'
The Times

Art Mag

'Lavishly illustrated … invites us to take a new look at three-dimensional art as it ranges across eras, continents, scales and materials … an interesting and often revelatory book'
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times

'[A] revealing examination of sculpture across the aeons'
Best Art Books of 2020, Sunday Times

'Imagine eavesdropping on two brilliant men discussing art, bouncing ideas around and clarifying each other’s thoughts … a fascinating conversation, which defines sculpture as widely as possible … Brilliant'
Daily Mail

'A fresh way to encounter art as a global phenomenon'
Literary Review

'There is something very personal about Gormley and Gayford’s conversations ... The maker brings renewed understanding to the writer, the critic, the reader, the viewer. This understanding enables us to better interrogate sculpture, and perhaps to reflect more fully on our lives in the world'
Studio International

'Gormley provides an exceptionally erudite foil for their joint insights into the merging of art, architecture, faith and life'
World of Interiors

'Lively conversations and explorations which encourage the reader to look at sculpture in a completely different way. ...The content, familiar and unfamiliar, is awesome. Gormley and Gayford are very accessible'
Mature Times

Read More

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 27.9 x 21.6 cm

Extent: 392 pp

Illustrations: 304

Publication date: 5 November 2020

ISBN: 9780500022672

Contents List

Preface • 1. Bodies in Space • 2. Off the Wall • 3. Mounds, Fields & Standing Stones • 4. Trees & Life • 5. Light & Darkness • 6. Clay & Modelling • 7. Voids • 8. The Body & the Block • 9. The Age of Bronze • 10. Bodies & Buildings • 11. The Colossus & the Slave • 12. Time & Mortality • 13. Drapery & Anatomy • 14. Actions & Events • 15. Fear & Fetishism • 16. Collecting & Selecting • 17. Industry & Heavy Metal • 18. Shaping a Changing World

About the Author

Sir Antony Gormley is a distinguished British artist and sculptor perhaps best known for his huge Angel of the North in Gateshead. He won the Turner Prize in 1994 and has been a Royal Academician since 2003. Gormley is one of the most critically respected artists working internationally, with works that have universal resonance. Martin Gayford is art critic for The Spectator and the author of acclaimed books on Van Gogh, Constable and Michelangelo. He is the author of Man with a Blue Scarf, Rendez-vous with Art and A Bigger Message. He has collaborated with David Hockney on A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney and A History of Pictures, and has co-written a volume of travels and conversations with Philippe de Montebello: Rendez-vous with Art.