The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London

Part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love, The Human Factor will bring together major works from 25 leading international artists across the last 25 years. The artists involved have all fashioned new ways of using the figure in contemporary sculpture and confront the question of human representation today. The exhibition focuses on sculpture that explores a variety of social, political, cultural and historical concerns and it incorporates diverse references from science fiction to war monuments.

Many of the works revisit classical and archaic models of art in addition to modernist sculpture and some of the figures represented are historical or political, including Adolf Hitler, John F Kennedy and Jesus. Treating the human body as a kind of rhetorical figure, these artists use the body as a means for staging and exploring the ways that society constructs identities, social positions and values. The sculpted figures are life-sized and reflect the viewer’s own physical presence in the gallery, creating encounters that are playful and unsettling at the same time.

Highlights include Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Boy on Globe (2008), a sculpture where unfamiliar colours are applied to the globe to represent an infrared map of areas affected by climate change. The figure of the boy is dressed in batik fabric which often alludes to African heritage but is actually manufactured in the Netherlands, contributing to ambiguity and the hybrid construction of identity.

The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, until 7 September, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX,

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1. Jeff Koons Bear and Policeman (1988), Courtesy of Southbank Centre