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The Risk of Enjoying Art on the Shore

UK artist slams 'safety' removal of sea statues

Oct 28, 2006

RISKY ART: One of 100 life-size, iron figures looks out to sea from Waterloo Beach in Liverpool, England. The installation, titled "Another Place," was created by Antony Gormley, the artist who created "The Angel of the North." (Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

LONDON (Reuters)—One of Britain's most striking art installations—100 life-size human statues spread over a northwest English seashore—will be dismantled at the end of the month because of safety and environmental concerns. The decision by a local council to refuse permission for the work to remain at Crosby Beach near Liverpool was slammed by its creator, Antony Gormley, who criticized Britain's "risk averse culture." The cast-iron figures, each weighing around 1550 lbs, stand facing the sea horizon and are submerged at high tide.

"When I have been down on the beach myself, the majority of people have been intrigued, amused, sometimes very moved," Gormley told BBC television. "Sefton Council invited me to put it there, they gave it planning permission to be there for nearly two years. It's been there for nearly two years and now people want it to stay. I think that is fantastic—that is a huge vote for what art brings to people's lives."

Gormley, 56, is best known for his 66-foot "Angel of the North", a massive steel sculpture of an angel situated at the edge of Gateshead in northeast England. Another Place Ltd, a body set up to campaign for the permanent installation of the Crosby statues, had applied for a four-month extension to the temporary planning permit. This was to allow for a feasibility and environmental impact study to be conducted for a permanent stay. Local planning officers had recommended approval of the extension but it was rejected earlier this month after objections by local residents, surfers, anglers and wildlife groups.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, while not opposing the extra four months, said it was opposed to the statues remaining permanently because of safety concerns. "Unfortunately the public are not satisfied with viewing them from the safety of the promenade and therefore make the trek across the beach to see the statues close-up," it said. "On several occasions since their installation, members of the public have become stuck in the soft sand or become cut off by the tide and have required (help) to extricate them or bring them to safety." The statues, which have been displayed in Germany, Norway and Belgium, have become a local tourist attraction and are estimated to have drawn 600,000 visitors to the beach. A spokeswoman for Another Place said they would submit a fresh planning application in an attempt to overturn the council's decision.