Angel of the North Completed
The bare figures about The Angel of the North impress the mind: it comprises 200 tonnes of steel; has a wingspan of 54 metres; and stands on foundations sunk 21 metres beneath the earth and using 600 tonnes of concrete. But in spite of all the fears expressed about the sculpture prior to its completion, it is the beauty of the thing that leaves the most lasting impression on our feelings. Suffice it to say that if asked to name an iconic image of the North East, it’s likely as many Britons would name the Angel as the Tyne Bridge.
Inevitably the piece is most associated with the sculptor who designed it, Antony Gormley . But it was a collaborative effort that began in 1990 with the decision by Gateshead Council to prepare the way for a major artwork on the site where the Angel now stands – a hill above the former Team Pit. Gormley’s involvement began three or four years later. The site is surely one of the secrets of the work’s success: unlike many pieces of public art it is very public, visible from the A1, the A167, and the London to Edinburgh railway line. Thanks to that location it is generally seen by more than 90,000 people daily.
Other collaborators in the design and building of the work were the celebrated engineers Ove Arup & Partners; Hartlepool Steel who actually crafted the steel components; specialists at Newcastle University who translated the original body casting into the scaled-up dimensions and 3D model; and the truck drivers and crane operators who painstakingly transported the sections from Hartlepool to the Low Fell site and dropped them into place.
Irreverently but affectionately known locally as The Gateshead Flasher thanks to its extended open arms, The Angel of the North has not only been an artistic success: it is visited by 150,000 people a year; and a maquette of the sculpture owned by Gateshead Council has been valued at £1 million, which is roughly what the entire project cost.
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