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The Angel of the North Monumental Sculpture, Gateshead, England.

Galaxy is an experienced worldwide traveller, from five-star hotels to yurts, from boats to motorhomes - she has tried them all.

The Angel Looks Enormous When Viewed From Below.

The angel of the north viewed from below. See how tiny the people at the base look.

The angel of the north viewed from below. See how tiny the people at the base look.

The Team Valley, Gateshead.

The Angel of the North monumental statue stands proud on a hilltop overlooking the Team Valley in Gateshead, England, the statue is viewed by one person every second of the day, making it the most frequently viewed piece of art in the world. Constructed as it is from weathering steel the elements have worked their magic on the immense statue, it’s rusty red hues stand out in stark contrast to the often grey northern skies.

It really can take your breath away when you first see it. On most days crowds of people can be found staring up in awe and wonder at the angel, the sheer size of the statue is mind-blowing.

The Angel of the North stands as a twenty-metre high monument to the thousands of miners who toiled deep underground in the former colliery beneath its feet and as a testimony to the skills and talent of the men and women who worked on its construction.

As you approach the Angel your heart starts to pound and not just because you are walking uphill. The statue can seem almost intimidating, an alien thing standing surveying the surrounding countryside. Your imagination can run away with you and it is easy to think of the statue as about to take flight. Children love the statue for its robotic appearance and perhaps because it is slightly unsettling. It wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Doctor Who!

A Blot on the Landscape?

Work began on the site in the winter of 1997 and the Angel of the North arrived at the windswept hill in February the following year. During the night of February fourteenth, the monumental statue made it’s way slowly towards its final destination under police escort, travelling at just 10 mph. Many people lined the streets to watch it pass and television crews broadcast the event into homes around the country.

Right from the start, the statue provoked very different reactions from people, some loved it, some hated it. Many people consider it to be a blot on the landscape and would love to see it taken down. Personally, I love it. Art should inspire debate and conversation and the statue certainly does that.

Is It a Plane or an Angel?

The Angel of the North viewed from the car park at the base of the hill. From behind it almost looks as if it is about to take flight.

The Angel of the North viewed from the car park at the base of the hill. From behind it almost looks as if it is about to take flight.

A Body Made of Steel.

The Angel of the North was officially opened to the public in June. The statue is comprised of three parts, the main body and the two wings. These parts contain a mix of five elements, a core of hollow steel runs through the body from the base to the head, like an enormous skeleton. Sacrificial ribs that help to shape the Angel from the inside. Diaphragms, 50mm thick horizontal plates that support the body and provide a firm fixing place for the huge wings.

External ribs for further support and to help maintain the shape of the body. Skin, 6mm weathering sheet steel cut and folded around the ribs to complete the body form. Only local firms were chosen by Gateshead council to provide the materials and the expertise needed to bring the extraordinary artwork to life.

In the Shelter of the Statue.

A great place for a picnic, sheltered from the wind by the Angel of the North monumental statue.

A great place for a picnic, sheltered from the wind by the Angel of the North monumental statue.

Ready to Take Flight?

The Angel of the North.

The Angel of the North.

Solid Foundations.

The foundations of The Angel plunge down over 20 metres into the solid rock beneath the mound. One hundred and fifty tons of concrete and over fifty, three metre long bolts were needed to root the Angel to the ground.

its unique constructions allow the statue to withstand winds of more than a hundred miles per hour, a necessary feature given its location high on a windswept hill. Standing beneath the Angel looking up at its outstretched wings, bent forward as they are at a slight angle, it’s easy to believe that it is preparing to take flight. It vibrates constantly as it is buffeted by the chill northerly winds.

The sculptor who created the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley OBE, was born in nineteen fifty, he has exhibited works around the world and is a Turner prize winner. Gormley is the creator of a number of major public works in Japan, America, Norway and Australia as well as numerous locations throughout the United Kingdom. Gormley designed the angel’s wings to angle forward so as to create a feeling of embrace. Standing down the hill beneath the statue that is indeed how it feels, the Angel appears to lean towards you, ready to wrap its wings around you and draw you near.

People locally refer to the Angel as the Gateshead flasher, for obvious reasons and I have no doubt mostly with good humour! Whatever feelings the Angel provokes it is an awe-inspiring sight and one that should not be missed if you ever find yourself in the north of England. A good thing to remember, if you do plan on visiting the angel, is the fact that there are no facilities at the site. No toilets, nowhere to buy a hot or cold drink, or a bite to eat - nothing. Seems like quite a wasted opportunity to me, some enterprising person should come along and open a cafe, they would make a fortune.

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What Gormley Has to Say About the Angel.

In the words of the sculptor.

"People are always asking, why an angel? The only response I can give is that no-one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them. The angel has three functions - firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future, expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears - a sculpture is an evolving thing."

How to Find the Angel.

Modern Art or Blot on the Landscape?

© 2010 Galaxy Harvey


Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on November 04, 2012:

Better late than never! Thank you for the comment.

AOTNAngelCompanion on November 04, 2012:

First of all, this is a VERY late comment, but THANKS for the amazing facts!

Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on July 04, 2010:

Wow, this statue does seem to provoke strong reactions, doesn't it. Like I said earlier, I quite like the Angel, I am not a big fan of a lot of modern art but the Angel follows a very long traditon of figure building on a massive scale. As such it has much more of a timeless feel to it, the kind of thing that could have been made yesterday or thousands of years ago.

Annoyed (for the last time) on July 04, 2010:

@ Galaxy 59,

It has been brought to my attention by my better half that I may appear to be jealous of and hate Anthony Gormley OBE (and his art).

This is not true. It's just that I'm fed up with councils and councillors who ignore the needs of their own constituencies but who quickly assume the position to accommodate the wishes of so called 'celebrities' so as to bask in their 'glory'.

Mr Gormley has quite a number of figures dotted all over the country. I quite like those along our coastline because every 13 hours or so, they are covered by the tide. Let's see him trying to get that problem sorted!

On a more serious note, I can only hope that Gateshead council will use their collective common sense(?) and have the offending trees that are obscuring Mr Gormley's vision of life, pruned back and not removed completely in some cost-cutting exercise. Pruned trees continue to grow whereas destroyed trees are gone forever!


Annoyed on July 04, 2010:

@Galaxy 59,

Please let me just say that I do love art, though modern art such as that "unmade bed" and it's ilk can be a bitter pill for most to swallow.

However, it's Gormley that I'm annoyed about. How can one person who doesn't even live in the north east wield so much influence over what must be done?

In recent years we've been told by central government that the UK's population has become extremely unhealthy, be it from overeating, alcoholism, smoking etc and it has taken "child" like step to counteract these bad habits.

They have tried in vain to encourage more and more of us to leave our cars at home and take up walking in our beautiful countryside to get this much needed exercise.

As I stated earlier, the government has turned some farmland into woodland which is something that I certainly do enjoy all the year around.

However, the areas designated for the public access should be kept well maintained, such as making sure that all public rights of way are in a good enough surface condition. The visiting public can also help by taking their litter back home with them. This is a good first step. Your point about having some amenities at the site of this particular sculpture is a valid one, though just imagine the increase of litter in this area. Incredibly, I've witnessed children and adults alike throwing litter to the ground as they are passing litter bins.

Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and litter is everywhere and far too many of our public rights of way are hardly ever maintained and this does make me angry. Every year I report the condition of my local PRoW to my local authority, who by law, are responsible for the maintenance to all PRoW in their county. Yet I receive the same old tired excuse each and every year from them, "we do not have sufficient funding!" This will become worse once the spending cuts proposed by the coalition government are implemented.

I'm just a member of the public who's from and living in the N/E. I pay my council tax to my local county council and I walk my dog in my local countryside each day but I'm refused this simple maintenance work far too often.

Yet here's one man living in London, travelling through the N/E on board a train, who seemingly has sufficient influence to have Gateshead council jumping through hoops like circus trained animals.

Perhaps I should have made more use of my 'O' level art from my school days. Ha!


Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on July 01, 2010:

Ah well, there you go then, we visited it by road and it is still clearly visible. I take it you are not a fan of the statue? I actually quite like it, it has a timeless feel to it and judgeing by the vast number of visitors it attracts, I would think it gave a welcome lift to the local economy.

Annoyed on July 01, 2010:

@Galaxy 59

This article was reported in local newspapers and on Looknorth, our local BBC TV news service.

Apparently Mr Anthony Gormley OBE was extremely displeased when his vista of his beloved work of art(?) was obscured by these offending trees whilst passing close by on board a train heading for Scotland.

Perhaps he only likes concrete jungles!


Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on July 01, 2010:

First off thanks for the comment.

I must sat that I didn't notice any trees obstructing the view when I visited the sculpture a couple of weeks ago. It stands on the highest hill for miles above a plain. There are trees, of course, but the angel is mostly surrounded by farmland and open fields. I do know that the site could do with some improvements that the local council could pay for. A toilet would be nice and maybe a cafe. Of course, here in the UK, we have a new government now so who knows what might happen.

Annoyed on July 01, 2010:

First off, thanks for a good article.

However, I'm annoyed by the recent news report dated 25 June 2010, that Mr Gormley OBE is very displeased after noticing nearby trees obstructing the view of his beloved but ugly sculpture.

Nature, like the tide will wait for no man, but I was under the impression that the UK government, under DEFRA and Natural England were promoting the planting of trees to help revive planet Earth's precious atmosphere thereby reducing our carbon footprint. Am I wrong?

It just goes to show that local government is not concerned for our well-being as that area's local council has jumped too, to do battle with these offending trees.

Galaxy Harvey (author) from United Kingdom on June 10, 2010:

Thankyou caseworker, it's a very inspiring piece of art.

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on June 10, 2010:

a very good article indeed

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