Landy proposed his project to Artangel via The Times/Artangel Open, conceived to give artists a unique opportunity to realise unusually ambitious projects. For the first time Artangel opened the doors for proposals from artists, rather than inviting them individually. Some seven-hundred proposals were tendered. Break Down was selected by a panel comprising Brian Eno, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Cork and Artangel Co-Directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris. The other selected project, also staged in 2001, was The Battle of Orgreave by Jeremy Deller.
Known as one of the most thought provoking artists of the ‘Sensation Generation’, Landy’s work was first shown in the legendary Freeze exhibition of 1988. Through the 1990s, Landy’s work explored contemporary consumerism in a sequence of major projects stretching from Market and Closing Down Sale early in that decade, to the sprawling shredded landscape of Scrapheap Services.
In the year following Break Down, Landy worked on a series of painstakingly detailed etchings of weeds, rendered in the traditional style of botanical draughtsmanship. In 2004, he created Semi-detached, a full scale model of the front and back facades of his parents’ house, shown at Tate Britain. In more recent times he has created drawings in charcoal, oilstick, glue and ink that reference Homage to New York, Jean Tinguely’s self-destructing machine which, for 27 minutes in 1960, spasmed, shook, and burst into flames but failed to fully self-destruct.