The media success of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North.

Paul Usherwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article was developed from a paper delivered at the ‘Visual Culture in a Changing Society, 1945-2000’ Northumbria University conference in 2000 which launched the journal Visual Culture in Britain. It builds on Usherwood’s ongoing interest in Gormley’s Angel, the most popular and frequently cited piece of public sculpture in modern Britain. See his ‘A Wing and Payer’, Art Monthly, March 1995; ‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane?, Art Monthly, April 1998; ‘Monumental or modernist? Categorising Gormley’s Angel’, The Sculpture Journal, Vol III, 1999, pp.93-101; ‘Wrestling with the Angel’, Northern Review, Spring 1998 , and two papers on the Angel delivered at Association of Art Historians’ annual conference, in 1997 and 2001. It argues that the case of Antony Gormley’s much-reproduced Angel of the North outside Gateshead demonstrates that in order to attract and hold popular attention, contemporary public art today has to adopt the forms and modes of address of advertising. Looking methodically for the first time at the different interpretations of the Angel both before and after its erection in February 1998, it shows that whatever the artist’s original ideas about the work may have been, it is the fact that its simple, flat, clear-cut shape has the qualities of a successful brand identity and lends itself to being photographed that has been crucial in making it the peculiarly celebrated work it is.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


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