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February 06, 2008

Angel of the South


Eurostar, London and Continental Railways and Land Securities have stumped up £2m for a landmark in view of the Channel Tunnel railway and points south. At 50m, twice the height of Antony Gormley's (justly) famed Angel of the North, the proposed Angel of the South should not only impress foreigners on their way to the metropolis but raise a finger pointedly at the people of the north of England.

Not everyone is impressed. The Guardian's Jonathan Jones is "horrified by the latest commission in Britain's apparently insatiable quest to build the biggest, most imposing, most monstrously public work of art" (via the Drink Soaked Trots*).

The Angel of the South, planned as a "landmark sculpture" to tell everyone the location of a new transport hub at Ebbsfleet, Kent, is going to be taller than Gateshead's Angel of the North. Doubtless there will eventually be Angels of the east and west. If they live up to the nickname, Britain will resemble a Norse fantasy landscape dreamt up by JRR Tolkien, Richard Wagner ... and Rachel Whiteread.

Which sounds fantastic (literally) to me. Jones appears to be less worried about neo-Norse monumentalism than the prospect of once edgy artists having been adopted by the establishment. I could weep. It is post-punk in a minivan, yearning for a lost, and largely fabricated, youthful art-school rebellion. This sort of personality not only destroyed art in the 1920s, destroyed music in the 1970s and destroyed the social sciences in the 1980s, it now insists on whinging on at the thought of public art that might be enjoyed by the public. Self-regarding, vanguardist, Guardianista prats.

I say bring on the Argonath.

Related: The Angel of Kandahar.
Also related: Antony Gormley's Event Horizon.

* And from Will in the comments: The Singing, Ringing Tree.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 6, 2008 08:27 AM


I think, a monument to the Britannia that is gone, if built in the scale of the Argonath, should be somewhat more impressive and detailed than the proposed sculpture. Frankly, what has been proposed looks like something out of the Short Aircraft works that has yet to be skinned rather than a sculpture which should be seen by by those first visiting Britain.

In the vein of the Argonath, perhaps a titanic sculpture of the likes of Richard the Lionhearted and perhaps Henry the V.

Sadly, as much as the likes of Churchill, Montgomery, or Mountbatten should be on such a monument, they probably don't cut quite the same imposing and impressive form.

Hmm, did Lord Nelson have a strong demeanor?

Posted by: Montieth [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:41 AM

I do not know if the short-listed sculptors have something in mind along the same lines as the Angel of the North, presumably they will each want to make a different sort of statement. Though I would be just as happy to have more of these titanic aircraft men, v. Battle of Britain.

If I am ever extraordinarily wealthy, however, it will be the Argonath.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:47 AM