Site-Specific Commission: Grytviken Whaling Station, South Georgia

Commission Winner Announced 

SGHT has unveiled a new artistic commission to shine a light on the story of humankind and the resurgence of the wildlife of South Georgia. Watch our live Press Launch here.


The winning artist is Scottish sculptor Michael Visocchi, with his work called ‘Commensalis – the Spirit Tables of South Georgia’. This site-specific piece will be situated on South Georgia at the Grytviken Whaling Station, with Michael’s concept drawing inspiration from a number of sources to tell the island’s powerful story of an eco-system in recovery.

Watch our short film to hear Michael talking about his work and find out more about the island and its wildlife.

About the Commission

Under the umbrella of the GSGSSI heritage strategy and Conservation Management Plan for Grytviken, SGHT has hosted an international competition to engage creative practitioners from varying artistic disciplines to develop a site-specific commission to celebrate the whale through a reinterpretation of the former Flensing Plan. This is an inspirational project (with thanks to Thies Matzen for the original idea), an opportunity to create a legacy for the future, a message of hope for the natural world and a reinterpretation that will challenge visitors to consider man’s changing relationship with nature and in particular with the whale.

The winning commission has been selected by a diverse panel led by the Trust’s Vice Chairman Professor Elaine Shemilt. The panel was composed of representatives from GSGSSI, South Georgia stakeholders and the creative community. The artist’s brief was to create a sculpture that will set the scene for visitors to Grytviken. Its purpose is to help visitors interpret Grytviken’s past and present and to celebrate the recolonization of whales, seals, seabirds and plant life, thanks to excellent British stewardship and environmental management of South Georgia’s terrestrial and marine environments.

This commission is part of a cultural heritage programme to communicate a poignant message about our changing attitudes to nature and the need for resolute stewardship of our oceans and the natural world.


Grytviken Whaling Station, showing the old landing point (the “Flensing Plan”) for Whale Catcher ships. Credit: Image from Geometria working for the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI)

How the Commission for Grytviken was chosen

We now have a winner of the commission for Grytviken Whaling Station. We had a tremendous response to the call for proposals, with 150 applications received from around the world. The judging panel  selected a shortlist of three and the artists in question developed their concepts ready for the final judging and selection of the winner, which took place in August 2020. The winning artist and their beautiful and inspirational concept will be announced in November 2020.

  • 4 November 2019 – application process opened 
  • 12 January 2020 (17.00hrs GMT) – application deadline (now past)
  • February 2020 – all applications considered by the pre-selection panel
  • February / March 2020 – selected applications were considered by the judging panel 
  • March 2020 – 3 shortlisted applicants were notified 
  • August 2020 – 3 shortlisted applicants present further developed proposals to the judging panel at interview 
  • November 2020 – the final selected commission will be announced and the 2-year commission period will begin.

The creative brief which artists responded to can be found at the link below.

  1. Creative Brief

    Please click on the link to watch

  2.  Drone Footage of Grytviken Whaling Station, South Georgia (Footage from Geometria working for the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI))

    Further supporting documents about South Georgia can be found on the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands website:

  3. Heritage Framework 
  4. Conservation Management Plan 

If you have any questions about the commission please email

Find out how to support our work here.

Humpback Whales off the coast of South Georgia Island, photo by Phil Tempest, 2015