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Anthony James art installation Antarctica

Artist Anthony James Illuminates Seven Continents with Divine Light

Earlier this year, multidisciplinary artist Anthony James debuted “Light,” a dynamic solo exhibition at Opera Gallery Dubai. The sweeping juxtaposition of sculptures created especially for the show, on view February 23 through March 21, basked viewers in James’ compelling interior world—an ever-thoughtful space in which the physical and metaphysical engage in a scintillating, sensorial, and cerebral dance. 

Throughout the presentation, sleek materials such as stainless steel, glass, and LED lights ebb and flow within the artist’s majestic and iconic installations—known as the “Portal” series. Peering within the hypnotic artworks, viewers are transported into a hallucinatory gateway that mirrors that of the vast universe and their infinite selves. James’s “Rain Painting” series and “Bullet” series utilize paradoxical materials in the deft exploration of destruction as a means to perfection. 

In a divine milestone, the installation of the artist’s works in Dubai—as well as in an opulent, avant-garde camp in Antarctica—spotlights James as the only living artist with sculptures permanently displayed on all of the seven continents. Whitewall had the opportunity to visit the artist in his studio in Los Angeles, a private haven that held the air of a ceremonious, holy space where art is elevated and held as the highest form of truth. There we spoke to James about his never-ending loyalty to geometry, the cosmos, and showing up for the day. 

WHITEWALL: Last year you were in Antarctica to install one of your sculptures inside the White Desert camp. 

ANTHONY JAMES: The piece was installed in November. I went down to see the camp and really pay a visit to it and spend a week down there in January. I went to see the piece in this space-age pod that works as a gallery. I think it’s the first time in human history that artwork is being installed in Antarctica.

Anthony James art installation Antarctica Photo by Craig McDean, courtesy of the artist.

WW: How was the artwork conceived and built, especially for this stage?

AJ: It was a collaboration between myself and White Desert. The founder approached me because he liked my artwork, and we discussed it and worked out how to place this piece. It was flown to Cape Town, and then put into a cargo plane and delivered to Antarctica. It’s installed in this space-age pod that White Desert created.

WW: Did you have concerns about how it was going to get there?

AJ: When you talk to the crew and the feats that they were capable of achieving with technology and experience, I wasn’t worried. I’ve seen what these guys do, and to collaborate with them was an amazing experience. I learned an awful lot. 

Anthony James Studio 2023 Photo by Erica Silverman, courtesy of Anthony James Studio.

WW: How do you feel the design of the living space reflects your artistry and vice versa? 

AJ: For the pods, form follows function, but it has a very minimal design. My work stems from formalism and minimalism, but I just play with the theatricality and optics of that movement. 

With the location in Antarctica, you get endless white desert—just ice as far as the eye can see, from all angles, an infinite ice field with infinite blue skies. The light doesn’t change. It’s 24 hours a day of the brightest sunlight you’ve ever seen. It has almost a Kubrick unnerving to its beauty, and I think you could say there’s something slightly menacing about looking into the void of my sculptures on occasion.

WW: Do you imagine the ways in which camp guests will interact with your work? 

AJ: I control the light and the illusion inside my sculpture. You do get a constant, infinite reflection when you look at the landscape of Antarctica. You can really pick up on that constant infinity, and it’s almost like a controlled light.  

Anthony James, Anthony James, “24” Dodecahedron (Gold),” 2023, 24 x 24 x 24 in., Steel, LED lights, double-sided glass; courtesy of the artist.

WW: Photographer Craig McDean joined you to document the journey. What was that experience like sharing this important moment alongside a close, fellow creative? 

AJ: Craig has been a best friend of mine since the early 2000s. It was possibly the most extravagant art installation that I’ve ever had, and I wanted to share it with my dear friend.

WW: In Dubai, you presented your first solo show in the region with Opera Gallery, titled “Light.” The word has divine associations in Arabic. What does “light” mean to you?’

AJ: I try to make a visual demonstration of something that’s somewhat impossible, like the ever-expanding universe or the divinity inside ourselves. So there is this divine nature to the light that I try to bring to my sculptures, and it only seemed appropriate to call that show “Nor” or “Divine Light” because it has such deep roots in Middle Eastern culture.

Anthony James, Anthony James, “24” Dodecahedron (Gold),” 2023, 24 x 24 x 24 in., Steel, LED lights, double-sided glass; courtesy of the artist.

WW: As the only living artist with sculptures permanently displayed on all of the seven continents, what does this moment mean for you as a creative? 

AJ: It wasn’t a goal. It’s just something that occurred. It just happened to be a part of my journey. 

WW: When you reflect on where your art has taken you, what comes up for you?

AJ: I feel like as an artist you always must work upon your instincts, and your only responsibility is to turn up to the day. 

When I was an artist graduating from Central St. Martin’s in London, to living in New York at 24 years of age, and then moving to LA, I just turned up to the day and saw where my journey took me. I don’t like preconceived things because whatever we have in mind for ourselves, it’s nothing compared to what God has in mind for us. So just turn up to the day and see where your journey leads you.

Anthony James, Anthony James, “50” Round Rain Painting (Aluminium Panel),” 2023, 40 in., paint on Aluminium panel; courtesy of the artist.

WW: Where was the first place you showed your art?

AJ: At the ICA London in a student show.

WW: Where have been some other significant locations for you?

AJ: I loved doing Crystal Bridges, Alice Borden’s Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. I love what that museum stands for—I like to see the school kids look at the artwork. I like to talk to the directors and the academics about the artwork. That was a wonderful exhibition. I truly enjoyed it. Borden was amazing to talk with and to learn about her journey—what she created there is remarkable.

WW: The number seven has great symbolic value in religion, mythology, superstition, and philosophy. How is this mystery echoed in your individual works as well as in this global achievement? 

AJ: I’m obsessed with numerology. I love geometry. I love mathematics. I find it the purest form of language.

Anthony James art installation Antarctica Photo by Craig McDean, courtesy of the artist.

WW: What kinds of integral considerations arise when creating site-specific art? 

AJ: They are all designed to withstand the elements. They’re all weatherproof, whether they are a small piece inside or a monumental piece that is on public display in harsh conditions such as Aspen winters, London winters, Miami summers, or Palm Desert summers of 115 degrees. I don’t worry about them withstanding because I know the integrity of which they’re made. 

As for certain pieces for certain locations, I think about scale and how it reflects on the environment. If I have the opportunity, I go and see the site first. If not, I take a lot of pictures, do research, and find the appropriate piece—the best piece—for that location.

WW: Are there any specific memories you have of challenges or solutions in these fluctuating environments around the world?

AJ: The installations can be very challenging, but we overcome them as a team. Teamwork is essential in any endeavor. To have seamless results, you have to count on your team, and you have to be a part of your team.

Anthony James, Anthony James, “30” Bullet Panel,” 2023, 30 x 30 in., polished stainless steel; courtesy of the artist.

WW: How do you see the audience’s perception of your work shift and change based on the location? 

AJ: One thing I like about my artwork, it seems to have developed a universal language. It doesn’t matter what culture, what education, what religion you’re from, you seem to get a similar effect out of it. It doesn’t really matter with age. I’ve seen school children mesmerized by it as well as college professors, and directors of museums.

I love the idea of unity consciousness and I like the way my artwork speaks to all age groups and all cultures.

WW: How were you approached to have one of your sculptures as a focal point in the recent film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery?

AJ: The producers of Glass Onion approached me to have the piece in their movie. It’s a huge success, and the piece was presented almost like a character in the film. I’m donating that piece for next month’s amfAR charity where it will be auctioned. 

WW: Where do you see or imagine your personal investment in mysticism, ethereality, and science fiction taking you in the future? 

AJ: Like I said, I don’t like to predict the future. I just turn up to the day.

Anthony James art installation Antarctica Photo by Craig McDean, courtesy of the artist.




Inviting the audience to feel, touch, and experience art in its most dynamic state is “When Forms Come Alive” at Hayward Gallery.
Louis Fratino spoke with Whitewall about keeping the studio a space free from fear of failure.
Susan Chen's first solo show at Rachel Uffner is on view now through April 20 in New York, including works in clay and ne paintings.


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