This is the first of an evolving series of posts recording my own ‘encounters’ with ‘public art’ around NewcastleGateshead.
Newcastle upon Tyne, 18 June 2012: Notes on public artworks that I passed as I moved between my various meetings and errands around Newcastle yesterday (18 June 2012).
Well, not actually an artwork – just a signpost to one: ‘The Blue Carpet’ by Thomas Heatherwick. This is I think the only public artwork in Newcastle with its own street direction sign. Interesting that this sign (on the walkway between Mea House and the City Library – one of my regular walking routes into town) is still in situ, as ‘The Blue Carpet’ is possibly the most contentious public artwork and public space in the City. Initially celebrated for its design ambition but since much maligned for its cost, materials and ongoing maintenance issues. I wonder whether ‘The Blue Carpet’ is mentioned at all in the big new Heatherwick Studio retrospective currently showing at the V&A (until 30 September 2012).
On my way to the parcel office behind the station I walked past ‘The Shopping Trolleys’ located outside the Arts Council England office in Central Square where I used to work. Off-hand I can’t remember the official ‘title’ of this work (its related to DNA code) but I remember the general mood of dismay among Central Square staff (Arts Council and others) when this work suddenly appeared here, replacing the more acceptably sculptural (?) Paolozzi ‘Vulcan’ that used to stand in this spot.
My usual route walking up towards the Bigg Market takes me past the ‘Stephenson Monument’ which has recently emerged from a screen of scaffolding and is now cleaned and restored. The triangular road island where the monument is sited is also now filled with a colourful array of City Council planters, creating a bit of screen and distraction from the traffic. It’s a warm sunny day and a small group of women with wheelie cases are using the plinth as a place for a sit down, perhaps on their way to or from Central Station.
Right in the centre of town the area around ‘Grey’s Monument’ is busy with people eating sandwiches and takeaways from the food stands and watching the BBC news on the big video screen, installed here as part of NE1‘s summer ‘Monument Live’ season. Meanwhile around the corner a giant photo of the ‘Angel of the North’ installed at the side of the Tourist Information Centre dominates the entrance to the ornate Central Arcade.
My final two artworks for today are glimpsed through the window of my bus home as it slowly negotiates its way through the traffic lanes around the Civic Centre. First, ‘Winged Victory’ on her column (the South African War Memorial, and also the site of the notorious ‘Lego Men’, now removed and allegedly auctioned off on E-bay). And then as the bus swings round the corner, Nico Widerberg’s ‘Pillar Man’ framed against the white wall of the Northumbria University Gallery.