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  1. ITV Report

Angel artist and Baltic founders made honorary Freemen of Gateshead

The artist behind the iconic 'Angel of the North' and two of the founders of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art have been made honorary Freemen of Gateshead.

The Angel's sculptor, Antony Gormley, has been given the honour alongside BALTIC founders, Sune Nordgren and Alan Smith, at a ceremony at the art gallery on the Quayside.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Angel of the North Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The nationally recognised landmarks have helped put Gateshead on the map.

Sculptor Antony Gormley OBE, is the artist behind the Angel of the North which has been welcoming visitors to the North East for over 14 years. He said: "I wasn't so keen to make a work for a motorway. But once I saw the site I thought, this is a fantastic site, because it's so open.

"I'm very, very proud to be an honorary Geordie. I think I've learnt a lot from all the work that I've done together with the welders and the engineers making the Angel."

The Angel of the North welcomes drivers on the A1(M) at Gateshead Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Gormley’s 20-metre high sculpture is seen from the A1(M) by over 90,000 drivers each day. It means nearly half-a-billion people have seen the Angel since 1998. It’s no wonder that the 200-tonne artwork has become a Northern icon.

Freemen of Gateshead: Sune Nordgren and Alan Smith Credit: ITV

Sune Nordgren and Alan Smith OBE, are two of the founders of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

In its opening year the BALTIC exceeded all expectations when over a million people passed through the doors of the former flour mill.

The Tate Modern in London is the only modern art gallery in the country which attracts more visitors.

Mr Smith said that there was some scepticism when the gallery was first suggested. He said: "When I started BALTIC, the people at the Arts Council were concerned that the Geordie's might not turn on to contemporary art. It's in our DNA. It's always been there, for hundreds and hundreds of years."

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art overlooks the Millenium Bridge Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Over the last last ten years the BALTIC has played a major role in the transformation of the area. In the 25 years since the Metrocentre was built over a billion pounds have been invested on the Gateshead bank of the River Tyne.

Sune Nordgren was the first director of the BALTIC and is recognised for bringing a series of major exhibitions to Tyneside. He said: "I'm very, very proud. Truly proud to get this award of course.

Nordgren, who is currently working in Sweden, added: "I didn't understand, to be honest, what it was when I first heard about it. I had to ask my friends in the North East and they said this is big, and of course I'm receiving it as a representative as well of many people's work here."