'Broken Column' - Atlas Obscura

'Broken Column'

An art project designed to encourage people to explore and investigate their surroundings more closely 

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Broken Column is an artwork by the British sculptor Antony Gormley. The artwork is designed to act as an “art hike” consisting of 23 rusting, mannequin-like sculptures set up in public, semi-public, and private locations across the city of Stavanger.

Some statues are outside public places and are accessible 24 hours a day, others are in less accessible areas such as the public swimming baths, a store, and a school. One statue is even located in a private home. The idea is that the trail encourages people to explore the city.

The 1.95-meter-tall sculptures are based on a cast of Antony Gormley’s own body, but with the features softly rounded off. Locally the statues are referred to as “the rusty men,” as the sculptures are designed to progressively rust slowly over time. The project was started in 1999 and was not completed until 2003.

Each statue relates to the other 22 statues by the direction they face and their elevation, either above or below sea level. Each sculpture stands on a different contour line. Although to the uninitiated their positions all seem random, if they were in one place, the statues would create a continuous column. The feet of one statue would be on the top of the head of the statue before them. The top of the column would be the statue actually positioned in the Stavanger Art Museum, while the bottom of the column is the statue standing in 1.49m of water out in the bay.

All of the sculptures on land are positioned facing out to sea, even the ones where you cannot see the harbor for the city surrounding you.

Know Before You Go

The pin is placed at the sculpture at the fish restaurant at the harbour as this is easy to find in the main area of town.


There are leaflets available in the tourist information office that give details of the art trail. The website provides a map and more information about the art hike.

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October 13, 2023

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