This technique emphasizes the materiality of each sculpture. Gray’s studio manager Anakena Paddon says they want to enhance that feeling with their decision to allow visitors to touch the works in the gallery. “It’s so enticing,” she says. “You want to put your hands where the artist’s hand has been. When you feel how hard the rock is, you also realize the amount of manual labor that’s gone into the production. It’s a really moving experience.”
The production of each sculpture is no small feat. First, Gray crafts a clay model in his London studio, which is then cast in plaster and sent to the marble workshop in Pietrasanta. There, it is translated from plaster to stone by a team of trained artisans. The block itself can take some two to three weeks to select; Gray relies on Giannoni’s intuition and experience to sense if there may be a hidden flaw in the stone. Then it takes months—six to nine for a bust, or up to a year for a full-length nude—to realize the final sculptures.
Although any work to come out of the studio will follow this process, the sculptures for the Pace show were particularly time-intensive. Before they began work on these sculptures, there were just three artisans staffing the studio. As the work progressed, the team swelled to eight; the 76-year-old Piero Quadrelli, a master at carving a rough form into the block of marble, even came out of retirement to pitch in. The work was unlike anything they’d done before, even the contemporary pieces they had crafted for Gray’s previous shows—many of which were based on Neoclassical sculpture. In total, seven works on view at Pace took three years to complete.