EXPIRED: 08/31/09 – Barry Flanagan, 68, was best known for large-scale sculptures. He saw the hare as an anarchic free spirit that could be used to subvert more sober monuments when placed in prominent urban settings. He did so in Dublin, NYC, Japan, UK…
Flanagan was born at Prestatyn, Wales, the son of an Irish film set designer. He knew from age 17 that he would make his life as a sculptor and actively pursued the medium, first studying architecture at Birmingham College of Art before switching to sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, where he later taught. Supporting himself by taking odd jobs as a builder and a baker filling doughnuts with jam, his early stuffed cloth figures and stitched canvas bags filled with sand attracted widespread attention.
In the late 1970s, he began sculpting animals, in particular rabbits, a practice that would become his trademark and help him to gain international recognition. But many other artists were critical.
In 1993, when someone said his rabbits lacked sexuality, the sculptor repaired to his studio and presently unveiled one with an erection and called it Humility.
Often his rabbits are engaged in human activities, such as playing musical instruments or sport, dancing, boxing, leaping, performing acrobatics or interacting with technology.
Before earning international acclaim, Flanagan cut the figure of an impecunious artist, moving from place to place in a dilapidated camper van, and paying his way with “Flanagan money” – crude, home-made bills signed by him in denominations of £5, £10 and £20. His idea was to leave a will stipulating that after his death his work could be bought only with this currency.