Planets sculpture by Antony Gormley

Discover the secrets of these stones in the amphitheatre area of the Piazza.

These eight igneous rocks on the Piazza originate from Northern Sweden or Norway, 350 to 1,000 million years ago. 

Absorbed by glaciers during the ice age, they were swept up and eventually transported to Malmo, Southern Sweden when the ice melted, before they ended up here.

Can you notice the little human figures incised into each of the one-tonne stones, as if they are trying to cling on to them? For the sculptor Antony Gormley (famous for Angel of the North), these figures reveal the connections between mankind and the environment, and the physical properties and natural elements that we share.

The installation – called Planets (2002) – is a ‘celebration of touch… of embracing… [and] a return to the earth’, according to Gormley, and is seen as complementing the other major artwork in the Piazza, the figure of Isaac Newton.

It was an opportunity to ‘complement the knowledge of the past (and our current obsession with information and its transmission) with an elemental presence’.

Stand in the middle of the space and start talking. Can you guess why this amphitheatre is called 'Poet’s Circle'?  Scroll through the image carousel above to find out.

Further down the Piazza, you can see an empty iron chair. This is another Gormley installation, Witness (2011) and is a tribute to imprisoned writers from around the world, which was commissioned by charity English PEN. According to the charity, it stands as areminder of those writers who, because of censorship and tyranny, are not free to go to any library, either in their countries or in ours’.

If you enjoyed this, why not venture out onto the Londonist’s art trail of Euston Road?

‘Planets’ (shelfmark BLWA 2) was funded by John Ritblat and the Ritblat family, the Henry Moore Foundation and other (anonymous) donors.

Explore more of our artwork

Isaac Newton sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi

This 12-foot bronze statue in the Piazza depicts Sir Isaac Newton in the search for knowledge.

Entrance Hall tapestry

Next to the main staircase hangs this tapestry made up of seemingly random fragments and figures. What does it all mean?

Virginia Woolf bust

When looking at this bronze bust of the writer Virginia Woolf outside the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, you may be taken aback by her aghast expression.

Terrace Restaurant sculpture by Barbara Hepworth

Look at this bronze sculpture for long enough and you’ll be transported to the rugged beauty of the southwest coast of England.

Etching by David Hockney

In this etching on the Second Floor, two expressionless women walk past a set of Michelangelo drawings. What’s going on?

Paradoxymoron – a 3D painting

If you’ve ever been down to our cloakrooms you will have undoubtedly experienced the unnerving double-take effect of Paradoxymoron by Patrick Hughes.