Richard Long

River Avon Driftwood


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Not on display

Richard Long born 1945
Purchased 1976

Display caption

Chance and order seem to hold equal sway in this piece, as in much of Long's work. It is made up of bits of driftwood which he gathered from the banks of the River Avon below Leigh Woods, near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol. These are used randomly, and spaced approximately but within the precise form of an anti-clockwise spiral. Objects which arrived at a given point by chance, through the flow of the river, are organized into a logical, and ancient, pattern.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Wood, 80 pieces, overall dimensions various
Purchased from the artist through the Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1976

‘River Avon Driftwood’ is a spiral of wood laid in an anti-clockwise direction. The certificate of authenticity which accompanies the work gives a diagram and instructions for laying the wood correctly. Each piece is placed on the floor on its flattest and most stable side, lengthwise following the line of the spiral, two spaces of its own length in front of the preceding piece. The order in which the wood is placed down is random, and the space between each ‘line’ of the spiral is approximately nine inches.

The wood is ordinary driftwood picked up by Richard Long on the banks of the River Avon below Leigh Woods, near the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This location is shown in a photograph for the card of Long's exhibition at the Galerie Konrad Fischer in Dusseldorf in 1968, again in the catalogue of his one-man exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1973, ‘ALONG THE TOWPATH GETTING STICKS’ and also on the card and poster of his exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol in 1976. The artist has provided the Tate Gallery with extra pieces of wood collected from the same site which may be used to substitute any pieces that become too fragile or brittle.

The artist has made several floor-works entitled ‘River Avon Driftwood’. These include a spiral of seventy pieces (also anti-clockwise) that was exhibited at Art and Project, Amsterdam in 1975, and three spirals of twenty-five pieces each exhibited at the Galerie Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf in 1976. Other driftwood works include ‘Driftwood’, parallel lines shown at Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp in 1975, ‘Driftwood Line’ exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1977, ‘Circle in Alaska’ a solid circle of driftwood from the Bering Strait photographed in situ on the Arctic Circle, and various other driftwood circles and zig-zag lines. The artist said that the driftwood spirals were quite different from the mud track spirals he had made in galleries that had directly represented the length of a walk: Silbury Hill, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1971 and Glastonbury Tor, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1974. He also confirmed that he had no particular reason for using an anti-clockwise rather than a clockwise spiral.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979

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