Friday, 5 July 2013

Michael Ayrton's Barbican Minotaur


'His body is part human yet he begins as a bull at the loins and he bears a hump of sinews upon his shoulders which carried the great horned skull and the cattle brute mask of his head.  His belly however is human...' Michael Ayrton The Maze Maker (1967) p.168

Ayrton's Minotaur (1968/9, bronze) was presented to the City of London in 1973; initially situated in Postman's Park, it was also intended to be part of a turf maze, which never materialized.  Following a fascination with the myths connecting King Minos, the Cretan labyrinth, Daedalus and Icarus, he had first turned his attention to the Minotaur in 1962, possibly as part of his love-hate relationship with Picasso's art (in 1944 Ayrton had penned a notorious essay on Picasso entitled 'The Master of Pastiche').  In his version of the myth he denied that Theseus slew the creature, whose destiny was ultimately to become human.  His book The Maze Maker quoted above was read by a wealthy Czech-born American Armand Erpf who commissioned Ayrton to construct a labyrinth or maze on his estate at Arkville in the Catskill Mountains.  At the heart of the labyrinth stood two bronze sculptures of Icarus and Daedalus and a bronze Minotaur - a cast of which was made, purchased by the Corporation of London in 1972 (total cost of sculpture and installation £9000).  It remained in the park until 1997 when it was relocated to a raised walkway on the north side of London Wall (this area was being redeveloped in 2013).  Written using Philip Ward-Jackson Public Sculpture of the City of London (Liverpool University Press, 2003) pp233-235.  The image comes from Smoke.

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