Phillip King

And the Birds Began to Sing


In Tate Britain
Phillip King born 1934
Acrylic and metal
Object: 1803 x 1803 x 1803 mm
Purchased 1965

Catalogue entry

Philip King b. 1934

T00737 And the Birds Began to Sing 1964

Not inscribed.
Acrylic and sheet metal, 71 x 71 x 71 (180.5 x 180.5 x 180.5); medium cone, 52 x 52¼ (132 x 133 diam.); small cone, 24½ x 38½ + (87.5 x 98 diam.).
Purchased from the artist through the Whitechapel Art Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1965.
Exh: The New Generation 1965, Whitechapel Art Gallery, March–April 1965 (9, repr. in colour).
Repr: Quadrum, XVIII, 1965, p. 71 (in colour).

The artist wrote (12 July 1965) that he first made ‘And the Birds began to Sing’ in Bennington College, U.S.A., in late 1964 in fibreglass. ‘I had it remade in steel in England by Feromet Ltd., being present at every stage of the making. The fibreglass piece has been shown in the travelling exhibition, London: The New Scene, organised by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, U.S.A. … Perhaps I should add that the static quality of the outer cone is merging into the dynamic inside activity.’

Asked why he was preoccupied with a cone shape the artist stated: ‘First of all I started making elements stand up by their mutual pressure at the top, thus forming a triangle. This seemed a way of getting out of the standing piling up idea, without losing anything. In an attempt to make mass less a question of weight in the material, I started using the split cone, and the elements became sheets in the shape of semi-cones. More recently I have come to use the cone more because it is such an extremely stable shape, that has maximum mass for its volume and can allow maximum maneuverability in an effort to make mass controllable in terms of shape, volume, surface, colour, contour, space.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.

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