Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'I Don't Do Motorway Art,' Said Gormley. Then He Took a Look at Our Site

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'I Don't Do Motorway Art,' Said Gormley. Then He Took a Look at Our Site

Article excerpt

Byline: Ian Robson Reporter

THE Angel of the North was almost never built, sculptor Sir Antony Gormley has revealed.

The artist has admitted the statue might never have got off the ground after he had second thoughts about accepting the commission... because he turned his nose up at 'motorway art'.

And he said he almost pulled out again when the design was unkindly compared to a statue ordered by Adolf Hitler under the newspaper headline Nazi... but Nice.

Sir Antony, quoted in the Guardian, said he thought creating 'motorway art' was beneath him when the idea was first suggested.

But he was persuaded to carry on and the statue at Low Fell, Gateshead, has become a much-loved symbol of the North East.

The artist said: "I was rather stand-offish at first. There was a site near Gateshead, an old pithead, and the local council wanted to build something.

"I think there'd been some kind of international competition, but they hadn't been terribly pleased with the results.

"I said: 'I don't make art for motorways.' "But then I saw a photograph of this mound on the hill, with a deep valley below. It looked like something from the iron age, really extraordinary. So I went for a look."

Sir Antony recalled how, on a visit to the site, he decided he wanted to create something in tribute to the miners who had worked in the area.

He said: "Quite a lot of people didn't want it - there was a campaign to stop the Angel, lots of negative stories.

"A paper dug up pictures of some totalitarian winged figure commissioned during the Third Reich and ran it under the headline: NAZI BUT NICE.

"I nearly pulled out - I had no interest in foisting this thing on anyone. But the planners talked me round, the council backed it, and people started to get on board."

Sir Antony gave an insight into the creative process saying how he had been thinking of ships and the Tyne and had the image of a ship's hull turned inside out.

He said he and his team spent months driving around engineering firms in the North East in an old van in the early 1990s before finding a place in Hartlepool which could make the statue. …

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