Angel of the North

Angel of the North (c) Webb Aviation

Britain from the Air - Angel of the North

No one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them
- sculptor Antony Gormley on angels

'Angel of the North' by British artist Antony Gormley is probably Britain’s most famous work of public modern art. And it has earned that fame since it was completed in 1998. Industrial change in the north east of England has seen whole mining communities lose their livelihoods, leaving behind little but memories and a sense of pride in their mining heritage.

Gormley’s towering statue, made from local steel and with a wingspan the size of a jumbo jet, sits outside Gateshead on the northern edge of the Durham coalfield. Part celebration, part memorial, and part hope for the future, its rusting surface seems to symbolise the toil of the mining communities and the resilience of the region.

As Gormley himself said: “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.”

Outdoor sculpture

Using large-scale public art to attract new visitors and to help stimulate regeneration is a growing trend. Liverpool has also benefited from Gormley’s public art, with 'Another Place' on Crosby Beach. He placed 100 cast iron figures along 3 kilometres of the beach, in a haunting display that attracted tens of thousands of visitors.

But outdoor sculpture in Britain has been around for hundreds of years. To see, or stumble across, large contemporary sculptures in outdoor landscape settings can be a wonderful experience.

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Location: Angel of the North, Durham Road, Gateshead NE9 7UA
Grid reference: NZ 26418 57789

Britain from the Air - Angel of the North credits

Thank you to -

Webb Aviation for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Football fans paid tribute to local hero Alan Shearer by putting a £1,000 Newcastle United shirt over the sculpture, complete with his name and famous number 9. It lasted 20 minutes before being removed by the police.