Monday, 19 May 2008

How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Last week was a bit manic, hence the lack of posts. One day was spent at a symposium marking the 10th birthday of the Angel of the North, by Anthony Gormley. This was a more serious part of a series of events organised by Gateshead Council and partners to mark this occasion, including parties and processions. There’s no need for me to run through the history of the Angel here, but look through the Council’s Angel site for some arcane facts. Look carefully and you’ll see that the Arts Council and Northern Arts paid for most of it - perhaps the best value £600 grand we’ve spent in the last 10 years?

There was lots of talk about ‘Angel Envy’ and the phenomenon of Big Art Projects. There are a number on the go – some through Channel 4’s typically ‘does what it says on the tin’ project and associated mapping, and others like the so called Angel of the South in Ebbsfleet. This seems to be splitting opinion just as Gormley’s Angel did. And does. Good. Here are a few links to give you a flavour from the Guardian the Times, Channel 4, and for a local view Kent Online. Even the negative comments are a shadow of what greeted the first Angel sketches.

One of the best talks on Thursday was by my colleague Matthew Jarratt at Commissions North within Arts Council England, North East. If you want to see what the North East has done since the Angel visit our website – it also has lots of info about the commissioning process. We’re proud to spend less of our grants for the arts budget on public art projects than many other regions: there are probably more projects but we persuade others including the private sector to commission and pay for them, with Commissions North concentrating on advice, brokerage and supporting the design stage. Perhaps that’s the next phase elsewhere too?

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