Mind-blowing metalwork at Messums London

Albert Paley creates giant abstract sculptures, ornate gates and the odd papal chalice

Threshold, Albert Paley’s 22m-high sculpture for the Klein Steel HQ in Rochester, New York
Threshold, Albert Paley’s 22m-high sculpture for the Klein Steel HQ in Rochester, New York | Image: Paley Studios Archive

From his industrial-sized studio in upstate New York, Albert Paley designs a vast spectrum of metal sculptures – giant abstracts, ornamental architectural forms and small-scale decorative objects. He originally trained as a jewellery designer, and his predominantly steel-wrought forms can be both boldly geometric and intricately organic. “It’s all to do with lines in space, whether it’s straight or curved,” he says of his work, which spans the dazzling steel Threshold, a 22m-high sculpture at the Klein Steel HQ in Rochester, NY, and an 18m-long gate covered in enormous stylised leaves for the Cleveland Botanical Gardens in Ohio.  

Paley at work
Paley at work | Image: Paley Studios Archive

“His work has the confidence of expressionism but also the nuance of European art nouveau,” says gallery director Johnny Messum, who will be showing a selection of Paley’s drawings, sculptures and gates at his eponymous London space from November 5, ahead of a larger sculptural show at Messums Wiltshire next year.

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Gates are a Paley signature. The V&A recently purchased a fine example, while others are installed across the US, from the fin de siècle-style Portal Gates at the Smithsonian Museum to the Animals Always gate at St Louis Zoo, a riot of flora and fauna weighing in at 100 tonnes. “As jewellery should bring a sense of personality to the wearer, so should pieces like the gates give personality to the architectures,” says Paley, whose smaller-scale work (from $6,500) has included a chalice for Pope Paul VI.

A model of one of Paley’s signature gates, Village of Hope, in California
A model of one of Paley’s signature gates, Village of Hope, in California | Image: Paley Studios Archive

“I am currently working on three commissions,” says Paley, “one of which is a monumental sculpture for Imagine Museum in Florida, but I can have up to 100 projects at various stages at one time. Drawing is fundamental to my process.” Next comes 3D models and, for large-scale work, structural engineering. “Threshold had to be fabricated on site with the help of two cranes, welders, structural engineers, contractors, riggers – a team of up to 35 people.”

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