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Synopsis

With Barry Flanagan is a vivid account of a friendship that evolved into a working relationship when Richard McNeff became ‘spontaneous fixer’ (Flanagan’s description) of the sculptor’s show held in June 1992 at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Ibiza, where they were both living. McNeff was to gain a privileged insight into the sculptor’s singular personality and eccentric working methods, learning to decipher his memorably surreal turns of phrase and to parry his fascinating, if at times unsettling, pranksteresque quirks. In September 1992 Flanagan and McNeff took the show to Majorca, resulting in a lively visit to the celebrated Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. The following year McNeff was involved in Flanagan’s print-making venture in Barcelona and in his Madrid retrospective. Flanagan rescued him from a rough landing in England in 1994 by commissioning a tour of stone quarries there. Subsequently McNeff ran into a fourteen-year-old profoundly deaf girl who turned out to be his unknown daughter. She had a talent for art and the generous sculptor was instrumental in helping with her studies. Late in 2008 Barry was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. By June 2009 he was wheelchair-bound. Two months later he died, and McNeff read the lesson at his funeral. Fleshed out with biographical detail, much of it supplied by the sculptor himself, this touching memoir is the first retrospective of a major Welsh-born artist. Photographs of him as well as of his drawings and sculpture fully complement the text. With Barry Flanagan captures the spirit of this remarkable Merlinesque figure in a moving portrait that reveals a true original.

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