“So, why’d they build that then, eh?”
I am not sure I could answer that questioner. This is my best shot.
Yes, I know, that money could pay for a military helicopter to hunt down “insurgents” in Afghanistan for months; or a hundred ICU beds for so many weeks; or even for Simon Cowell to groom Geordies for stardom, an investment which might bring a return. Instead, they spent it on a statue. Why? For the sheer joy of it. The exuberance. You don’t spend every penny you earn on serious, functional, sensible, useful things, and why should the Government?
As a society, we need beautiful things to uplift the spirit, and seeing this statue from the A1 when I go to Edinburgh uplifts mine. So I had my lunch on a bench near the foot of it, looking up at it, yesterday, and heard that questioner. Not everyone likes the Angel. Some sneer at it.
And if that argument did not work? Well. Look at the constant stream of people, wandering past, looking up, taking photographs. Look at the delight on the faces of the children. That ice cream van, the owner knows what he’s about, he knows he has a good pitch. We love it. That is reason enough.
You know, some people would still not get it, after that explanation, but I like to think most people would. And for those who say Gormley is not a major artist, the Frederick Leighton de nos jours, I would use a similar argument.