This week is special not because it’s Valentine’s Day but it’s also the 20th birthday (anniversary of the unveiling) of the iconic Angel of the North which welcomes visitors to Gateshead.
It is one of the most talked about pieces of public art ever produced and certainly divided opinion up here in the North. At first I wasn’t sure what I thought of the Angel especially as it started to change colour to what we recognise it as now.
But with time I grew to love the Angel – especially when I moved away from my beloved North East; the Angel welcomed me back. Whether I made the journey back up North by car or train I could see it and know I was almost home once again.
It annoys me when people commonly mistake that the Angel is in Newcastle, it is actually near the A1 in Gateshead (before you arrive in Newcastle from the South).
The Angel rises 20 metres from the ground and proudly dominates the skyline, dwarfing all those who come to see it.
It was conceived as a landmark sculpture to mark the approach into Gateshead and the site of the former Teams Colliery, by Gateshead Council.
The artist Antony Gormley designed the sculpture which is made from 200 tonnes of steel with a wingspan of 54 metres.
Gormley said of the Angel:
“The hilltop site is important and has the feeling of being a
megalithic mound. When you think of the mining that was
done underneath the site, there is a poetic resonance. Men
worked beneath the surface in the dark.
Now in the light, there is a celebration of this industry. The
face will not have individual features. The effect of the piece
is in the alertness, the awareness of space and the gesture of
the wings – they are not flat, they’re about 3.5 degrees forward
and give a sense of embrace. The most important thing is
that this is a collaborative venture.
We are evolving a collective work from the firms of the North
East and the best engineers in the world.”
Don’t just take my word for how amazing the Angel is it’s won a heap of awards
- 1995 – National Art Collection Fund Award for outstanding contribution to the visual arts.
- 1996 – British Gas/ Arts Council Working for Cities Award.
- 1998 – Northern Electric & Gas Awards – Arts Event of the Year
- 1998 – The British Constructional Steelwork Association Awards (structural steel design).
- 1998 – British Construction Industry awards, small projects section; highly commended.
- 1999 – The South Banks Show Award for Visual Arts.
- 2000 – Civic Trust Award.
- 2001 – Named by the BBC as one of the classic designs of the twentieth century.
- 2002 – Voted one of the ‘Wonders of Britain’ in a national survey carried out by The Yellow Pages. Other wonders included The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle.
- 2008 – Voted one of ‘Britain’s top ten landmarks’ by a poll conducted by YouGov for consultants Faithful + Gould. It is now regarded in the same league as Big Ben and Stonehenge.
- 2008 – Topped a national poll as the UK’s most recognised landmark in poll carried out by The National Lottery.
If you’ve never seen the Angel in person make 2018 the year you make the journey. It isn’t just the iconic Angel that’s worth a visit we have so much going on in the North East this year as part of The Great Exhibition of the North.
My home city of Newcastle has been named as the number 1 place to visit by the Rough Guide which you can find out more about in a previous post here.
In August there’s a second chance to dine out for less across the city as part of NE1 Newcastle Restaurant Week. I took advantage of this back in January and you can read all about it here.
Have you visited the Angel, what did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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