Angel causes Anger - The Open College of the Arts
Explore #WeAreOCA
Skip Navigation

Angel causes Anger

Antony Gormley designed the Angel of the North to be a focus of hope in a time of difficulty in the 1990’s, when the people of the North East were facing the closure of the Lower Tyne Colliery and many other industries in the area.
But early last week leading supermarket chain Morrisons were forced to apologise as it created uproar for using the giant wings of the Angel of the North as a free billboard to advertise the price cut of a French baguette.
The baguette was projected onto the wings and bore the words “I’m cheaper” in the bottom corner.  Many people have described the act as guerrilla marketing, as Morrisons were unable to confirm whether or not they had permission from Gateshead Council to pull such an act.
It is clear that Morrisons thought it would be a good publicity stunt after falling sales, instead it has backfired and caused offence to many people including Antony Gormley himself.
Gormley said: “I was shocked and appalled by that, I have to say… To see it trivialised like that was shocking and stupid.”
Available from: [Accessed 9 May 2014]
What are your views? Should it be allowed for public art to be used as a marketing tool for large companies?
Antony Gormley, Angel of the North, 1998 (Photograph by Tony Grist)

Posted by author: Leanne Putt
Share this post:

18 thoughts on “Angel causes Anger

  • Unfortunately this is typical of the rampant commercialism that we have encouraged in our companies. They see nothing as sacred, especially great works of art. What next? Tesco’s advertising its products on the front of the Tate Modern in London, (See Pink Floyd 1977 Animals album) Sainsbury’s advertising carrots on Blackpool Tower or maybe a tobacco company doing an ad with Gormleys Iron men on the Formby coast. “You are never alone with an ‘Iron Man'” to paraphrase a certain cigarete company advert. Nothing is sacred with these conglomorates, give them an inch and they will take not only take a yard but a mile and more before we know it.
    Stand still for a second in any high street nowadays and you get accosted by someone trying to flog something from one of these companies.

    • Yes, those Druids are very pesky – ruining a perfectly good landscape with their so-called calendar art.

      • Was there a misunderstanding? I meant, ‘What’s next? Advertising condoms on Stonehenge?’ Projected images onto other’s artwork is graffiti. I’m sure Banksy lovers (I’m one) wouldn’t be happy if an image was projected on to his artwork.

        • Not sure what you call it, but its not graffiti – “Writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place:” – and who knows Banksy may not mind, given that he randomly paints on other people’s walls

  • How would you feel if in stead of an advertisement it had been the projection of a Banksy graffito?

  • Thats a very good point, I don’t think that would have caused as much upset. I think because it was a large supermarket chain, we think that they should have known better than to carry out a form of graffiti.

    • Maybe it did, but for what reason the furore?
      “The baguette was projected onto the wings” it would appear no damage has been done, so really, what’s the fuss?
      “To see it trivialised like that…’ oh, the shame!
      If it was a “fashionable” brand, would it have been in the media so much? Or even if it was some hot pop act or TV show? Would it then be clever marketing? Is it the fact that it’s a simple baguette? And that it’s “cheaper”? Well, let them eat cake and stop being so righteous!
      Is it the fact that permission had (maybe) not been sought? Well, I suppose I’d then have to ask is the thing copyrighted or protected in some other way to prevent such use? I guess the thing will be used to promote the region. Is that “all” it’s allowed to be used for? We’re in an age of guerrilla marketing, so accept that fact or do something to prevent it – stop using the social media sites that get traffic through such things!
      Personally, I like that it has been appropriated and used in another way – it gives renewed purpose. That fact that it’s commercial, well, it’s just a sign of the times. I might not like the current power of the corporation, but you know what, apart from Gormley’s pride, has anything been hurt by this? And it could have been Farage’s face and name strewn across those wings…

  • You might think that Gormley’s currency didn’t need amplifying, nor indeed Morrison’s, but to quote that oft’ spoken phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, and this post is testament to that proposition. Marketing is that devious to court column inches/google “news” items with this kind of exercise, which as Rob states very clearly – who or what has been damaged? The ‘North’ way get some additional visitors from the mild furore it has generated, so some good may come of it 🙂
    Heaven forfend Farage’s smiling edifice though.

  • Not sure if pulling a stunt like that has a point. Back in 1998 the Angel had an Alan Shearer shirt on however there was no advertising and everyone found it quite entertaining. I was living in Nigeria at the time and a friend sent me the newspaper clipping. Cheap bread does for me hit a real low and I think Gormley is right to be upset. Perhaps temporarily changing the artwork as we did in Durham by projecting images on it would meet with approval but not cut price bread please. We love our Angel. As for tourism, please do visit us, if you haven’t been to the North East for a holiday you might be surprised.

  • So, an Alan Shearer shirt is ok, but a food staple isn’t? Heinz or Monroe on your Warhol? Duchamp’s ready-mades are art – is there art in a baguette too. If it didn’t have “Morrison” across it, with the tag line “we’re cheaper”, would that then be acceptable?
    Personally, I hate having to watch adverts for Mars on a DVD I’ve purchased, but that doesn’t hit the news. And yes, some of the DVDs I purchase are a form of art.

  • Being a bit contentious here but couldn’t it be argued that the Angel itself is graffiti on the landscape (while the projection isn’t graffiti – as it is not permanent) to some people?

  • I wonder if there’s something about regional symbols/icons here? The football shirt was accepted perhaps because it was Newcastle. Would a Sunderland shirt have received a warm welcome? What about the blue star for Newcastle brew? Breweries, football clubs & supermarkets are all commercial businesses, it’s just that some achieve a near-sacred status.

  • So what I think we’re agreed on is that Morissons baguette wasn’t local, glamorous or expensive enough to be associated with the Angel of the North? Or, for those other than the artist, with the North East? Either the art is “sacred” and beyond being corrupted, or it’s not. I tend to think it’s not, especially as it looks the same today as it did the day before the “attack”.
    Perhaps not in the same ballpark, but for those of you that aren’t aware of it, check out LHOOQ, or even LHOOQ rasée. Then there’s Kennard’s haywain too. Yes, I know these were done in the name of art, not advertising, and yes, there will have been some level of ‘discussion’ around these too, but as art becomes ever more commercial, why not the other way around?
    And at least it didn’t end up like this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

> Next Post Stephanie Gotterson
< Previous Post Eclectic Guitars?
Back to blog listings