Clasp, a sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley, has been installed over the weekend on King’s Walk, between the Students’ Union and the Northern Stage. The sculpture is on loan from the artist most famously known for the Angel of the North, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary year. Clasp is a 4.5 metre high iron art piece, representing two figures embracing and is part of Sir Antony’s Blockwork series. The sculpture, comprising of 18 individual blocks, is designed to change surface colour as the iron rusts, progressing to a more red colour.[pullquote]A petition to remove Clasp from campus and ‘restore peace’ was started by an anonymous Newcastle student shortly after its announcement yesterday and has gained over 400 signatures. [/pullquote]
Despite being the latest art installation to be displayed on campus, the announcement has received large amounts of criticism from members of the student body. A vast amount of the objection has focused on Clasp’s placement. Students have raised concerns that the sculpture impacts negatively on the familiar view of the arches, a popular backdrop for graduation photos.
Law student Tallula Fortune said, “The arches are the most beautiful part of our campus, and I don’t think it is in keeping with the background of the red-brick buildings. I don’t like it anyway but I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t obstructing the nicest part of campus!”
The abstract, rusty, block-like nature of the structure has found few defenders, with descriptors such as ‘ugly’, ‘a monstrosity’ and comparisons to Minecraft and Jenga being made. Additional concerns have been raised regarding health and safety and the accessibility issues Clasp may pose to visitors with disabilities, a sentiment echoed by former Students with Disabilities Officer Errol Kerr.
The art piece has also been poorly received by certain alumni of Newcastle University, including International Multimedia and Journalism master’s graduate Ritwik Sarkar, who described the sculpture as an “unbecoming intrusion to the collective memory of the students whom were only here for a short time. The arches are the first visual memory for many whom look back fondly at their tine. This statue belongs more steampunk discotheque and less in a bastion of culture that is the foyer in front of the SU.”
A petition to remove Clasp from campus and ‘restore peace’ was started by an anonymous Newcastle student shortly after its announcement yesterday and has gained over 400 signatures.
In response to the concerns, a spokesperson from Newcastle University clarified to the Courier that the sculpture was being loaned for free to the University from Sir Antony for a five year period, and that the installation was funded from the University Art on Campus Budget. The spokesperson further went onto explain, “The sculpture was approved by a steering group that includes representation from the Students' Union. Sir Antony chose the location of the sculpture carefully and this was agreed by the University’s Art Group and Executive Board. Planning permission was granted for its installation on King’s Walk. We are honoured to have the sculpture here on campus.”