‘I Didn’t Think I’d Survive’: Sculptor Thomas Houseago on His Mental Breakdown, Recovery, and How Facing Trauma Transformed His Art

Installation view “Almost Human” at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2019. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine

There is something mythical about the sculptures of Thomas Houseago. They appear as if they were forged in an underworld, emerging from the earth as bent-up, long-limbed figures in bronze, wood, and steel. The artist once described his forms as “broken.”

It’s a word that most observers would not immediately associate with Houseago, a veritable art star who shows with some of the world’s top galleries; sells his art for as much as $1 million; and counts celebrities like Brad Pitt among his closest friends. Now, for the first time, Houseago wants to discuss another part of his identity: that he is a survivor.

Growing up in the 1980s in Leeds, West Yorkshire, one of the most violent regions in the U.K., the artist’s upbringing was shaped by severe traumas. They permeated his private life and have, he now recognizes, deeply informed his art practice as well.

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