Covid Bell

2022

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“I always start my artworks by looking at the traditions within that genre, whether it be ceramics, tapestry, printing or bells, so I have been looking at bells from different cultures for inspiration.”
— Grayson Perry

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

 Made during the pandemic, between 2020 and 2021, Grayson Perry's elaborately decorated bronze bell marks this unprecedented period whilst celebrating London's great bells and their long history in marking time, mourning death and celebrating life. 

The Covid Bell is the first 'Art-Bell' commission on behalf of The London Bell Foundry, which demonstrates the new business model aimed at reviving the bell-making industry. Fabricated by Factum Arte in Spain, cast by Pangolin Foundry, Gloucestershire and tuned by Nigel Taylor (who worked at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for 40 years) working with Nicholson Engineering in Dorset, the bell weighs almost 400kgs.

After being modelled in clay in Grayson’s studio, the ceramic model was scanned in 3D by Gabriel Scarpa and enlarged, 3D printed, moulded and cast in bronze by Pangolin Foundry in Gloucestershire. Pangolin has been an active supporter of the campaign to revitalise bell making and merge the traditional skills with new casting technologies. Factum Foundation worked with Re-Form and other heritage organisations to prove the viability of a new approach to bell making which sought to continue and preserve historical bell-making skills while bringing new technologies, and commissioning world-renowned artists to make editions of bells. Grayson Perry’s first commission marks the start of the revival of bell making in the UK. 

The Covid Bell heralds both a new demand for bells and a new financial model. The dependence on church bells, a dwindling market with small profit margins, has been strangling traditional bell-making. Factum’s new model of working with the world’s greatest artists to produce bells means they will have a value way above their production cost. The sale of these bells will support traditional bell-making and ensure the continuity of the same artisanal skills that have been practiced continuously in Whitechapel since the casting of the 12th-century bells in Westminster Abbey and earlier.
 
During the casting of Grayson’s bell, a film was also in the making about Nigel Taylor, who will demonstrate every stage in the sand and loam method, an act immortalised in the bell-making scene in Tarkovsky’s 1966 film Andrei Rublev.

Members of the public visiting the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (21 June - 21 August, 2022) are invited to ring the Covid Bell.

The ceramic Covid Bell nearing completion in Grayson Perry's studio © Grayson Perry

The 3D model of the Covid Bell © Factum Arte

Moulding of Grayson Perry's Covid Bell at Pangolin Foundry © Pangolin Foundry

A film by Steve Russell Studios

First casting of the bell © Pangolin Editions

Ready for tuning, with other bells © Nicholson Engineering

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry


 

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