The Angel of the North near Newcastle first spread her wings in 1998. The Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley followed up the genre-defining public artwork with Another Place in 2006 near Liverpool. Banksy, meanwhile, was rapidly becoming an urban legend with his gritty spray-can art. Today, public art is everywhere. Forget the gallery: you can find contemporary art in city centres, nestled into nature and even in First TransPennine Express's very own stations...
Art at the station
Huddersfield's Grade I-listed railway station, gleaming from a recent revamp, is now a platform for public art. Art Station is the new space on the station concourse that's managed by a collective of Huddersfield-based artists, musicians and designers. The project aims to bring a series of month-long exhibitions, live music and film events to the station until early 2013.
Recent events include film director Catherine Brill's debut feature Before Wonderland, a darker take on the Alice in Wonderland story, with more offbeat installations promised for the new year.
Middlesbrough is another rail hub with a station-based art motif. Platform A opened in 2011 as an extension to the Platform Art Studios. It showcases emerging and established creative talent across the north-east. From December 2012 until February 2013 the space is collaborating with the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art to exhibit work by Jannis Kounellis.
The final in this trio of station art spaces is along the railway lines of the Lake District. A series of artworks, developed in conjunction with local colleges, now adorns the station walls at Carnforth, Windermere and Barrow-in-Furness as part of a community rail partnership. The first round of commissions was completed in the summer, with new works due for development in 2013. The nearby South Lakes Wild Animal Park sponsored one of the most striking images, a close-up tiger's face at Barrow station.
Beyond the train station, several cities on the network are home to unique urban installations. Liverpool in particular can lay claim to its very own bona fide Banksy. An image of a biplane leaving a trail of smoke, believed to be have been painted by the world-renowned street artist, appeared on the wall of a car park in Rumford Street in the city centre in December 2011. The city already has one Banksy, a giant rat stencilled onto the wall of a derelict pub in Berry Street.
North Tyneside, meanwhile, is home to the Royal Quays Art Trail, a regeneration area on the northern banks of the River Tyne with access from Newcastle. A series of large-scale installations form a loop around the reclaimed land. Look out for striking works, including Lightning Clock by the timepiece-inspired artist Andy Plant and Tyne Anew by American abstract artist Mark di Suvero.
The banks of Glasgow's River Clyde are also home to a growing ensemble of public art as part of the ongoing regeneration to transform the Clyde waterfront. Two of the more eye-catching artworks celebrate the industrial heritage of the region: Jephson Robb's Change at Clyde Gate and Andy Scott's Rise at Glasgow Harbour. Both were inspired by the legacy of heavy industry on the Clyde. The waterside art trail complements the recent opening of the Riverside Museum in Glasgow Harbour. The new home for Glasgow's transport collection was designed by Zaha Hadid, leading to it being dubbed Glasgow's Guggenheim.
This new breed of public art is often designed to blend into nature, and several places along the network offer glimpses of contemporary art in a natural setting. Durham is more closely associated with classical artists and the sweeping panorama across the River Weir, looking towards Durham Cathedral by Prebends Bridge, is a scene that inspired JMW Turner to capture the light in watercolour. Reveal, a stone pillar carved with slots to catch the light reflecting off the Cathedral's imposing façade, was installed by the former cathedral artist
in residence, Richard Cole, for the riverbank art trail.