Grace Dent: If Morrisons understands the region so well, what the hell is it doing despoiling Antony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’?

This magnificent monument belongs to the people, not to any supermarket chain

 

Share

If anything, I should thank the supermarket Morrisons for defaming Antony Gormley's Angel of the North by turning it into a grotesque billboard flogging crusty white bloomers. The supermarket projected an ad on the artwork on Sunday evening. Think Gail Porter’s arse on Big Ben but patisserie-based. Yes, thank you Morrisons, I didn’t realise how passionately I felt about the angel until some berk with an advertising budget territorially pissed allover its majestic 54-metre wide celestial reach.

Well, I say berk. The ad has influenced berks like me to write about it, name-checking the supermarket while drawing attention to the fact that while Gormley's angel bestows her silent blessing over the North-East, meanwhile Morrisons is giving us, this day, our daily bread, and at a price more saintlier than Lidl.

News of the sponsored vandalism reached me via the usual channels of Twitter moaning minnies and semi-professional bed-wetters who spend all day on social media re-tweeting woe about the “state the Government have put us in” while their pot-plants wither and their children breakfast on Maltesers. I try, largely, not to rise to their bait but, here I was, frothy of mouth, boggle of eye.

The Angel, I felt in this surge of ire, belongs to the people. It is not anyone’s to be pimped. Gormley built it - he cites this as one of the angel’s purest messages - as an historic tribute to the land where coal miners worked for more than 200 years. This is a tribute to the true beginnings of Britain, more relevant to the common man than history books full of monarchy, court gossip and pomp.

The Angel also, I felt, belonged to me. I’d invested in it, fell in love with it every single time I’d travelled north from London, was slapped around the face yet again again by its looming, haunting industrial prettiness. Every time I saw it on the horizon and that twinge in my cheek stopped short of a tear and I mumbled for the 20th time, “I bloody love that angel”.

In the South we swim with daft, fanciful, whimsical conceptual art. In London one could paint oneself purple and sit on a commode in the park eating boiled eggs, and 90 per cent of people would purposefully ignore you so as to deny you the oxygen of attention and 10 per cent would think your artistic endeavour worthy of a Turner Prize nomination.

In the North it is different. Modern, challenging art exists for the public, but it is rarer and more likely to be stifled and challenged by cost and lack of clear intention. In the 70s I grew up in a place where art was demanded to have a distinct purpose, poetry had to rhyme and scan, and modern dance was just folk “making a clip of themselves”. When Gormley's angel appeared - a hulking brutal lump of metal in tribute to the north’s past and future - and people embraced it, loved it, took day trips to see it, it moved me greatly. 

I am reluctant to attack Morrisons for not understanding the north - or even insulting the north - because a trip to Morrisons for the Friday night big shop – six Eccles cakes for £1, an all-day breakfast in the cafe and putting your lottery on at the ciggie counter - is about as “parochial Northern leisure time” as I can conjure.

Morrisons doesn’t just understand the north, it is part of its very fabric, which is why tampering with the Angel - believing its customers will give a slack-jawed thumbs-up - is so misplaced. I am prepared to forgive them for this discretion as their bread is very tasty. But if they touch the Gormley sculptures on Crosby beach - my friends, they sleep with the fishes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor