Together with the Würth Collection, in the central hall of the Gemäldegalerie, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is presenting The Last Judgement Sculpture, a major work by the British artist Anthony Caro (1924–2013). Right next door to the Old Masters, this monumental 25-part installation forms a sweeping ensemble of forms united by the overarching theme of the Last Judgement.
Since the mid-17th century, the theme of the Last Judgement has rarely been addressed in the visual arts. Numerous paintings, sculptures and reliefs from the Middle Ages into the early modern period, however, bear testament to the popularity this subject matter once enjoyed. The striking artistic sophistication that these depictions achieved can be observed in the Gemäldegalerie, which boasts a range of outstanding painterly visions conceived by the Old Masters. Right next door to these works, from 20 December 2019, The Last Judgement Sculpture provides visitors with the chance to jump forward through the history of art: in the central hall, they can discover British sculptor Anthony Caro’s unique take on the theme of the Last Judgement.
For The Last Judgement Sculpture, between 1995 and 1999 Sir Anthony Caro developed a completely unique sculptural language that morphs between abstraction and figurality. The sculptures in stone, wood, steel, brass and concrete form a sweeping ensemble of forms united by the overarching theme of the Last Judgement. But with every individual figure, additional fields of association are evoked. Caro drew these from Bible texts and ancient mythology, and from the traditions of modern literature and the visual arts.
The Last Judgement Sculpture is not only the product of the sculptor’s interrogation of the history of art and culture. While most of his works are paeans to life in the language of sculpture, says Caro, his Last Judgement is “a commentary on modes of social and political behaviour”. Caro singled out the violent conflicts of the 20th century as the driving force behind the work, particularly the war crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s.
Anthony Caro is a key figure in the history of Modernist sculpture. A student of Henry Moore, early in his career, he created figurative works. From the early 1960s onwards, he became one of the leading proponents of abstract sculpture. His encounters with other artists such as David Smith were fundamental to this shift, as was his contact with the American art critic Clement Greenberg.
The collector Reinhold Würth was closely involved in the creation of The Last Judgement Sculpture from the outset. During a studio visit, Würth was convinced by the potential of the project while it was still just a collection of maquettes, and asked Caro – whom Würth considers “the most important British sculptor since Henry Moore” – to create the ensemble for the Würth Collection. Shortly after its completion, the work was presented to the public for the first time at the 1999 Venice Biennale.