Antony Gormley's hundred cast-iron life-size statues are to be evicted from the Merseyside coastline on health and safety grounds.
Scattered along Crosby beach, the collection of figures staring out to sea - entitled Another Place - has proved a spectacular hit in the North-west, attracting half a million people since July 2005.
Originally scheduled to be moved to New York next month, campaigners had hoped they would become a permanent installation. Negotiations had taken place with Gormley, and a charitable trust, Another Place Ltd, was working to raise £2m to buy the statues.
It was expected that Sefton Council would give the trust and campaigners four months to raise the money, but on Wednesday night the council voted against the extension.
Debi Jones, a Conservative councillor, had raised safety concerns compiled by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. "I asked the committee whether they would have a clear conscience if an injury took place," she said. In July three girls were stranded by the tide after walking to visit the furthest statue.
The artist said yesterday he was "deeply disappointed". Gormley added: "I hope that we can challenge this decision and not let bureaucracy triumph over art. I have been overwhelmed by the response of so many people in the area and outside who have given their support and shared with me the sense of achievement in creating Another Place in this extraordinary setting."
A spokesman for Another Place Ltd said the decision was "disappointing". The trust was expecting to raise £1m within the next week. The exhibition will be removed from Crosby beach at the end of October, although the trust hopes to appeal to the Secretary of State to reverse the decision.
The decision to remove the statues, moulded on the artist's body and spreading 3km along the coastline, was described as "petty-minded in the extreme" by Claire Curtis Thomas, the Labour MP for Crosby. She said: "This exhibition brought Merseyside to the attention of hundreds of thousands of people - not just from the UK but across the world. It brought developers who had never thought of investing in Merseyside to a region that they were absolutely thrilled with. I am deeply distressed by this narrow-sighted decision."
Ms Jones remains unrepentant. She admitted that she liked the statues, but said there were serious concerns about the safety of people trying to get to the furthest statue.Reuse content