Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.
This week has marked the 20th birthday of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. Overlooking the Sunderland-bound traffic speeding down the A1, the ‘Gateshead flasher’ has become as much a symbol of the north-east as the Tyne Bridge or St James’s Park. Indeed, as the Chronicle puts it, Gateshead would be ‘unthinkable’ without it. Perhaps this explains why some bright spark is attempting to market an Angel fancy-dress costume on eBay for £175…
Is this the strangest thing on eBay? Check out this interesting Angel of the North costume https://t.co/a0E05oyzVU
— The Chronicle (@ChronicleLive) February 14, 2018
Nevertheless, not everyone has been on message about the monument over the years: the late Brian Sewell described it as a ‘monstrosity’. More recently, the Angel has suffered no end of indignity as a prop for guerilla marketing campaigns. In 2014, the supermarket chain Morrisons was forced to apologise after it projected an image of a baguette stamped with its livery on to the sculpture’s wings. Later, members of the Vote Leave movement used the Angel as a billboard for its campaign to leave the European Union, prompting Gormley to intervene.
But not all attempts to co-opt the Angel have gone down quite so badly. In the run-up to the 1998 FA cup, Newcastle United fans conspired to dress it up a giant football shirt bearing the name of team captain Alan Shearer, securing acres of publicity and more than a little goodwill.
The Angel of The North turns 20 today 🎉
An iconic sculpture of the North East, designed by Anthony Gormley, was commissioned in 1994 and completed in February 1998.#AngelofTheNorth #Gateshead #Newcastle #NorthEast #AnthonyGormley #Sculpture #Shearer #NUFC #20Years #Birthday pic.twitter.com/1x1c9WqPf0
— Northumberland SLS (@NCEA_SLS) February 15, 2018
Gormley himself has credited the stunt as his sculpture’s ‘baptism’. ‘I thought “yes, now the Angel is being accepted”’, he told ITV. Lucky it wasn’t a Sunderland strip…