Angel of the North - History and Facts | History Hit

Angel of the North

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About Angel of the North

The Angel of the North is the UK’s most famous piece of public art. Designed and built by lauded artist Antony Gormley in 1998, it is taller than four double decker buses and had a wider wingspan than a jumbo jet. It is therefore said to be the largest statue of an angel in the world, and is visited by some 150,000 people every year.

History of Angel of the North

In 1990, Gateshead Council first explored the idea of a sculpture to act as landmark for the southern approach into Gateshead and Tyneside. They intended for it to act as a “millennial image that would be a marker and guardian for our town”. After a period of planning, famed artist Antony Gormley was chosen to design the landmark, despite the fact that he originally disliked the project, stating that he ‘did not make motorway art’. Planning permission and £800,000 of funding was acquired in 1995.

On 16 February 1998, the sculpture was officially opened at its location in Gateshead overlooking the A1 and A167 roads and the East Coast Main Line rail route. On 20 June of the same year, a celebratory day was held to mark the ‘birth of a new place’.

Like much of Antony Gormley’s work, the Angel is based upon a cast of his own body. Its rusty, oxidised colour is a result of the corten weathering steel material which, though distinctive, is not an eyesore next to the surrounding environment. Indeed, Gormley had originally intended to name the sculpture the Iron Angel of the North.

Angel of the North today

The Angel of the North is viewed by endless passers by on the motorway at an average of 60mph, and is visited more directly by 150,000 people a year. It has been claimed that the sculpture is Britain’s largest, and is designed to have a lifespan of more than 100 years.

The sculpture is known by some locals as the ‘Gateshead Flasher’.

Getting to Angel of the North

In addition to the nearby motorway, the Angel of the North is free to visit and is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Frequent buses run from Newcastle Eldon Square and Gateshead Interchange up to every seven minutes at peak times. There is space for 26 cars plus four disabled bays.