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06/12/2016

The elephant in the room that people are happy to talk about

Barry Flanagan’s sculpture has become a major talking point in Societe Generale’s Paris HQ

An elephant is not something you often see in the middle of a bank. Perhaps even more surprising is that this elephant has become the mascot of the Societe Generale Art Collection.

Set up in 1995, the Societe Generale collection encompasses nearly 350 original works and 700 lithographs, editions and screen prints, constituting one of the most important collections of contemporary art assembled by a bank in France.

‘Elephant’ is a bronze sculpture by British sculptor Barry Flanagan OBE, which showcases the artist's favourite theme, animal sculpture, is the most recent addition to the collection.

During his career, Flanagan experimented with a host of different materials, before finally coming back to traditional sculpture techniques. While ‘Elephant’ is inspired by art of the past, he also adds a touch of the new.

Looking closely at the elephant, you notice the strange position it is in. As is often the case with Flanagan's work, the elephant appears to be moving, but the movement of its front foot is kept in check as it runs all the way back to the base of the sculpture. The elephant's foot cannot seem to break free of the base it is attached to. The body of the elephant seems to spurt out of the base like a fountain, only to remain a prisoner of it. This contrast is reinforced by the irregular surface of unpolished bronze.

In this offbeat brand of classical art, the monumental size of the subject and the harshness of the material are strangely reduced by the circular shape of the sculpture. The artist manages to combine an exercise in circularity and an exercise in style.

Elephant, 1986 - Sculpture (bronze), 196,2x188x105,4 cm

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