The best public art in the world
A landmark for Englandâs northeast: Antony Gormleyâs Angel of the North. (David Else/LPI)
Why wait in line at a gallery when these splendid works are on offer in the street? And they can be enjoyed for free! We have picked 10 of the best for your viewing pleasure.
1. Angel of the North, Gateshead, England
This bizarre steel sculpture by Antony Gormley presides over Tyneside in northeast England from its hilltop perch. It is huge - as tall as four double-decker buses and about as wide as a 747 aeroplane - and can be seen for miles around. The "angel" stands with its "wings" outstretched, although those peculiar, boxy things make it look more like a cyborg than an angel. It is bloody impressive, though.
It is visible approaching Gateshead by train or driving along the A1 motorway; catch the Angel Bus from Gateshead Interchange or the Eldon Square Bus Station in Newcastle.
2. East Side Gallery, Berlin
Germany's Berlin Wall, torn down by the people in September 1989, was a target for Berliners' rage against the communist machine; the so-called East Side Gallery, the longest extant stretch of the wall, has been covered with more than 100 murals and graffiti. Although vandalism and the elements have destroyed much of the gallery's power, it is still a moving reminder of the former regime of iron, with artworks ranging from Dalíesque freak shows to Pink Floydian bricks. Happily, a restoration project is under way.
The gallery is near the city centre; get the train to Ostbahnhof.
3. Manneken Pis, Brussels
This bronze statue of a little kid pissing water seems like it was commissioned by Benny Hill, but the Belgians also like that sort of thing. The original was created in 1388 but later destroyed, and the people of Brussels were so outraged they demanded a replacement, which was granted to them in 1616. For national holidays and special occasions, the pissing boy gets to dress up: he has been Elvis, a samurai warrior and Mozart. He has been known to piss beer and wine, too.
Head towards the city's Town Hall from the Grote Markt, the statue is on a corner a few hundred metres up on your left.
4. Banksy stencils
The works of enigmatic artist Banksy can be seen around the world, from the Israeli West Bank barrier to his (rumoured) home town of Bristol, England. Largely satirical takes on politics and culture, Banksy's pieces combine stencils with graffiti and have raised street art to the highest ranks (a fact he finds amusing). The prolific artist has said that he began creating stencils because graffiti took too long. Tips for seeing his work in situ are a case of hurry before it is painted over by the local council or before it goes up for auction at Sotheby's for more than £100,000.
5. Statue of Liberty, New York
Talk about "public" art - it seems the public can do whatever the hell they like with the Statue of Liberty! As perhaps the most visible symbol of the US, Liberty has suffered numerous indignities upon her person. She was almost blown up after a German attack in 1916; half-buried in radioactive sand in Planet of the Apes (1968); made to disappear by magician David Copperfield in 1983; brought to life in Ghostbusters II (1989); destroyed in Independence Day (1996); and submerged in snow in The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
Entry to the monument pedestal is only possible with a Monument Pass purchased online in advance.
6. Rodina Mat, Volgograd, Russia
The stainless-steel Rodina Mat (Motherland) is one of the world's largest statues. Sitting atop the Mamayev Kurgan (a shrine to the fallen), she weighs in at 8,000 tonnes and is 108m high. There is good reason for the gigantic scale: Russia lost 30 million souls during WWII. Compared to the calm beauty of the Statue of Liberty, Rodina is every inch power and fury. Brandishing a 22m-long sword, her mouth is twisted with rage - a truly awe-inspiring sight.
On your way up to the statue, go through a tunnel opening into the hillside, where there is a cavernous monument to the Battle of Stalingrad.