Shit statues: Newcastle's worst public art

Roxanna Watson surveys Newcastle and Gateshead's many statues and identifies the worst from the bunch.

Roxanna Watson
23rd November 2020

I am not a hater of public art. I actually really like the concept: objects that make a community a better place to be, that people can be proud of, that represents the history and values of the local residents. It’s nice.

However, so often public art can feel really forced, like it's an easy way for the local council to say that they are investing in the community. Too much money spent on something that no one really wants. 

And a lot of it is also just really, really ugly.

What follows is a list of what I believe are Newcastle and Gateshead’s worst public arts (in no particular order, because they are all bad for different reasons).

Halo by Steve Newby, Trinity Square

I actually think this one kind of suits the whole vibe of Trinity Square, but it does also look like if Argos did public art.

File:Stainless Steel sculpture, Trinity Square, Gateshead.  (21008578901).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Credit: dun_deagh on Flickr

The Angel of the North by Antony Gormley,  just off the A167

This is controversial but I don’t understand why the local council commissioned someone who is barely even from the north to erect a statue of themselves depicted as an angel. I think as an object it is quite nice - much better than the Eiffel Tower, for example – but if you’re going to literally call it ‘The Angel of the North’ I just think there should be some element of it that represents… the North. Instead, the sculpture, and Antony Gormley by extension, has become the main symbol of the North without any real qualifications for the role.

Angel of the North - Wikipedia
Credit: Wikipedia

Ellipsis Eclipses by Danny Lane, Newgate Street

This name is so bad that it’s good, but unfortunately the piece itself is just bad. It looks like the kind of generic public art that you might get on Sims.

File:Ellipsis Eclipses by Danny Lane (2005), Newgate Street (geograph  2189802).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Andrew Curtis on Geograph

Waymarkers by Lewis Robinson, Ouseburn

sjhoward.co.uk » Ouseburn
Credit: SJ Howard

I walk past these all the time, and have done for the last 18 years, but still, every time I see them, I am confused. My main question is, why teal? Are they sponsored by Arriva? I actually think if they were a different colour the bottles wouldn’t be so offensive, but the bigger sculptures are irredeemably bad. Making work that resembles literal rubbish wasn’t even a new concept in the noughties so they don’t even get points for originality. 

Sports Day by Mike Winstone, West Street (Gateshead)

Sports Day - Gateshead Council
Credit: Gateshead City Council

This monstrosity is just a whole mess. Also - sports day! What a concept. I guess there probably isn’t enough sports-day-themed art to be fair. Someone should get on that.

The River God Tyne by David Wynne, Civic Centre

I always found this one really creepy. Just all round bad vibes. I wouldn’t want him decommissioned though, simply because I like to know where he is at all times.

The statue of River God Tyne, Newcastle Civic Centre.
Credit: northumbria.info

Featured image: Wikipedia

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