Guards is in The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 2005, this series of works has been re-presented several times, including installations at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery, the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and Art Exchange in 2013.

  • Artist: Francis Alÿs
  • Title: Guards
  • Date: 2004
  • Medium: Video, printed papers, drawings and 64 tin soldiers
  • Dimension: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: 27min
  • In the Tate Collection


The video begins with stark de Chirican scenes of empty gray plazas. Enter the scarlet figures of lone guardsmen, ambling casually in search of their mates. Wonderfully absurd sights give way to the pleasures of sound as the guards meet up, the video increasingly animated by the rhythm of their steps. Tourists gawp at the never-before-seen Sunday morning spectacle as the guardsmen add a flourish, momentarily setting aside Alÿs's instructions and breaking out of their columns into lines that peel way, curve off, and rejoin. Sometimes you groan at agonizing near misses as one group slips down a side street just as another enters the frane. By contrast, each meeting is hugely satisfying - none more so than when a small rectangle of fifteen guards slots into place with the irregular polygon of forty-nine others to complete the final square.  — Mark Godfrey, Art Forum, May 2006.

Over five years Francis Alÿs walked the streets of London, mapping its habits and rituals in a range of different media, and the ensuing films, videos, paintings and drawings were presented as Seven Walks at 21 Portman Square in 2005 for the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the UK. Amongst these works was Guards which followed 64 Coldstream Guards as they marched through the City of London, resulting in a film, and a collection of prints and drawings.

Image: Francis Alÿs, Guards, 2004

at Art Exchange

Colchester, 30 September - 30 November 2013

In the autumn of 2013, the films, drawings and tin soldiers of Guards were installed at Art Exchange as part of an exhibition of Francis Alÿs' project Seven Walks. The works in Seven Walks were developed by Alÿs over 5 years, and delved into the everyday rituals and habits of the metropolis. This exhibition at Art Exchange was accompanied by a symposium, which expanded on the themes of Alÿs' explorations of the city, and featured speakers TJ Demos, James Lingwood, Andrés Montenegro, Marina Warner and Richard Wentworth. The discussion was chaired by Dawn Ades.

Image: Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, Guards, 2004 (detail) at Art Exchange, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Art Exchange

at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

Sunderland, 1 June - 31 August 2013

The Guards film and drawings were installed at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art as part of the group exhibition 'Walk On'. This exhibition included works by artists from Janet Cardiff to Richard Long and focused on artists’ walks and journeys, both literal and metaphorical, to examine the astonishingly varied ways in which artists since the late 1960s have used what would seem like a universal act – of taking a walk – as a means to create new types of art.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, Guards, 2004 (detail) at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery

London, 27 March - 5 May 2013

Guards was installed in the neo-classical Pitzhanger Manor House as part of the group exhibition 'Walk On'. Spanning the last 50 years and including works from street photography to the essay-film, the exhibition explored the varied ways in which artists have used what would seem like a universal act – of taking a walk – as a means to create new types of art.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, Guards, 2004 (detail) at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Pitzhanger Manor Gallery

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, Guards has been installed at: