The high-profile sculptor Antony Gormley has sparked controversy by announcing that he is applying to become a German citizen in the wake of what he called the Brexit “tragedy”, giving him dual nationality status.
His new German passport is due to arrive in the next month, the Observer newspaper reports. “Antony Gormley holds dual nationality as a result of having a German mother. Without giving up his British nationality, he has decided to apply for a German passport which he will hold alongside his British one,” a spokeswoman for the artist says.
Gormley’s scathing comments on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union following a referendum in 2016 were made at the launch of his show at the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar in the Netherlands (until 25 September). Daniel Birnbaum, the director of the Acute Art technology company, posted on Instagram: “Welcome back to the EU Sir Antony.” But the radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer posted a sarcastic tweet, saying: “How will we ever manage without you Tony?”
“I’m embarrassed about Brexit: it’s a practical disaster, a betrayal of my parents’ and grandparents’ sacrifice to make a Europe that was not going to be divided again. It’s a tragedy,” said Gormley at the opening of the exhibition. “Britain has fallen into the hands of self-seeking people who are not interested in public service but their personal careers, and that’s a shame,” added the artist.
In 2019, Gormley told The Art Newspaper that “Brexit is a disaster for this country, it’s a disease for which nobody seems to have the cure.” Gormley is still in discussion with the French government about plans to site a series of iron sculptures on an archipelago of islands off the coast of Brittany in northern France.
His spokeswoman adds that the sculptor “remains a proud British citizen and is grateful for the extraordinary support he has received from so many people and institutions across the UK but he is also keen to retain his links with and continue to show his work in Europe”.
The impact of Brexit on the UK art world is an ongoing issue. Members of the trade recently warned the British government that London will become “a shadow of its former self” in just five years if art imports continue to plummet (the UK’s global share of the art market fell by 3% to 17% last year, its lowest in a decade).