Cloak of conscience creator, Anna Chromy, honoured by China: first woman, first westerner, first sculptor to get a solo exhibition
5 October 2015
For an artist with sixty sculptures in public places across Europe, it is astonishing that few people in the English-speaking world have heard of Monte Carlo-based Anna Chromy. It is as if she has been hiding in plain sight. That is about to change dramatically.
In 2012, the president of the British Olympic Committee, Lord Moynihan, invited Anna to design the sculpture for the athletes Olympic village which was thought by many athletes to be lucky and as such was much touched during the games. It stood in front of the Team GB accommodation.
Now the Chinese have fallen in love with her work and are honouring her with the first solo artist exhibition at the prestigious National Museum which fronts onto Tiananmen Square. This fantastic compliment to a Western artist follows on from a previous Chinese visit where Anna was the guest of honour of the Guangzhou Arts Fair. Her sculpture, the Violinist Player, was displayed on all official announcements, posters and programs.
One can criss-cross Europe and never be far from an Anna Chromy sculpture. They range from Farnham in Surrey to Luxemburg, Stuttgart, Prague, Salzburg, Munich, Monaco, Milan, Menton, Pisa, Florence and Bologna and for two months in 2005 her works dominated the Place Vendome in Paris. In Portofino, Italy, her Dancer graces the famous yacht harbor and in Pisa the Myth of Sysiphus stands as the symbol of the University.
Anna is the quintessential European, a Czech who grew up in Austria and is now based on the Mediterranean in Monte Carlo. She is perhaps best known for a monumental fifty-ton work in blinding white Carrara marble titled ‘The Cloak of Conscience’, so big that admirers can walk inside it and use the space for contemplation. The marble comes from the same quarry that produced the five-ton block from which Michaelangelo produced his famous statue of David. This huge Cloak of Conscience is now seeking a permanent home and Jerusalem has been mooted as one that would be appropriate given its association with three world religions.
Another of Anna’s well known public works is of the Austrian Conductor Herbert von Karajan which stands in front of his birthplace in Salzburg. It was unveiled in 2001 in the presence of his widow Eliette von Karajan, the President of the Salzburg Music Festival, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Ricardo Muti. In 2003 Anna was awarded the Prize Salvador Dali and the Kafka Medal from the Europe Foundation in Prague - previous recipients include the movie directors Steven Spielberg and Milos Forman.
A painter for many years Anna suffered a catastrophic car accident in 1992 which had a profound effect on her. It sent her in an entirely new direction as she recovered, that direction being sculpture. And the move to sculpture has created something monumental - the Cloak of Conscience.
On a special day in June 2005, at the mass for her fortieth wedding anniversary the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint Francis in Assisi asked Anna if she could conceive the Cloak as a space of meditation, according to the words of Saint Francis “to use in the absence of a consecrated space our own body as a place for prayer and contemplation”. This was the moment that launched the project that Anna had cherished since her first painting of the Cloak, to create the Stone-Guest as a universal symbol of conscience in a dimension never attempted before. To carve this chapel into one single block of white marble Anna had to wait for a whole year until she received on Christmas Eve 2006 the news that the famous Michelangelo quarry in the Apuan Mountains in Tuscany had finally given birth to a piece of marble weighing 250 tons.