'Angel of the South' to be giant white horse

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The Independent Culture

A giant white horse was announced today as a new £2 million public art commission in south-east England dubbed the "Angel of the South".

The winning design, by former Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger, was selected from a three-strong shortlist as part of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project.

His design will see a horse standing on all four hooves at 33 times life-size.

Once built, the artwork will dominate the north Kent landscape, standing as high as Nelson's Column at around 164ft (50m).

Today's announcement was made at Swan Valley Community School in Swanscombe in Kent, which overlooks the Springhead Park area where the giant statue will be built.

The sculpture will be seen by up to 60 million people per year and will be more than twice as tall as Antony Gormley's 66ft (20m) high Angel Of The North sculpture in Gateshead in 1998.

Wallinger said: "This is a tremendously exciting project. There was some very tough competition and I am honoured that the horse has won through."

The other two shortlisted designs included a steel latticework "nest" by Richard Deacon and a tower of stacked cubes by Daniel Buren.

Project leaders hope the work will act as a symbol for the new Ebbsfleet Valley development and Ebbsfleet International railway station.

The next stage is to start the planning process with the local authority, Gravesham Borough Council, which is expected to last at least 12 months.

Wallinger said: "I and the team very much look forward to working with Gravesham Borough Council as the planning process progresses."

Planners aim to transform the area with up to 10,000 new homes, offices, shops and community facilities across a 400-acre site.

More than 50,000 people commented on the design proposals during a public exhibition last year at the Bluewater Shopping Centre near Dartford.

The board of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project endorsed the decision of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project Selection Panel after considering the comments.

Victoria Pomery, chair of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project Selection Panel, said: "Our decision was made on artistic merit and Mark's outstanding response to the brief. I am confident it is the right one.

"Mark is a superb artist of world renown and his sculpture will become a real landmark for Ebbsfleet and the whole region."

More than £1 million has been raised to date by the project's founding patrons - Eurostar, Land Securities and London & Continental Railways.

Speaking on behalf of the patrons, Stephen Jordan, chair of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project Board, said: "In spite of the current recession, this project remains important for the 25-year task of building sustainable communities in the Ebbsfleet Valley and strong economic development around Ebbsfleet International station.

"All involved are committed to design excellence and Mark's stunning concept reflects that aim.

"Now we can focus the further technical development and other practical studies on just one design as we find out what the planners make of it."

Ben Ruse, of London & Continental Railways, said it was "impossible" to predict a completion date after being questioned on whether it will be finished by the 2012 Olympics in London.

He said: "The important thing for us is that, now we have got the design, we will not compromise and it's not something we will lumber the Kent countryside with."

Born in Chigwell, Essex, in 1959, Wallinger studied at the Chelsea School of Art and at Goldsmiths College, where he also later taught.

He exhibited throughout the 1980s and in 1993 was included in the Young British Artists II exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.

He was also one of the artists featured in the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997.

In 1998 he was awarded the Henry Moore Fellowship at the British School in Rome and in 2000 a retrospective of his work, Credo, was exhibited at Tate Liverpool.

In 2007, he won the Turner Prize for his painstaking recreation in the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain of Brian Haw's protest display outside Parliament at Westminster.

Wallinger said his design was a "symbol that's spectacular".

Speaking of the significance of the site, he said: "This has been a route in and out of the country for millennia. As an incredibly ambitious project which is going to take 25 years, it's going to be nice for people to say 'I live by the white horse'.

"Most new towns are known more for roundabouts than sculptures. Lots of things came together quite quickly for me to decide on the white horse.

"Scale is everything and that will mean, I hope, that people will take it to their hearts. At the end of the day, it's just a horse in the field but it's a symbol that's spectacular."