Solider sculpture reflecting on horrors of WWI crowned UKs best outdoor artwork

A 1.2-tonne metal sculpture of a soldier reflecting on the horrors of World War One has been crowned the UK's best piece of outdoor artwork.

Ray Lonsdale's 2014 statue, called "1101" to mark the first minute of peace after armistice at 11am on November 11, 1918, is also known as "Tommy".

It was initially only meant to be a temporary display but following its unveiling, it became so popular that locals started a fundraising campaign to have it permanently installed.

In 2015, after raising the £102,000 necessary, it was moved to a paved platform in the town, and a time capsule containing donated items, including a letter from Ray Lonsdale, a T-shirt, children's artworks, war remembrances, and a Victory Medal was buried beneath it.

The moving sculpture, in Seaham, County Durham, took top spot following a nationwide poll by Sky Arts to celebrate the launch of its new series, Landmark, which will see a new wave of public art in the UK as the country’s best artists compete for the chance to create a brand-new national landmark.

Sky Arts initially asked 1,000 UK adults to share their favourite pieces of free-to-view outdoor artwork, before the list was whittled down to a top 20 by curator, Clare Lilley, one of Landmark’s expert judges before 2,000 adults then voted for their favourites.

Lonsdale's work topped the list ahead of Andy Scott's "Kelpies", a giant horse installation in Falkirk, Scotland, and the "Uffington White Horse", the chalk hill figure in Oxfordshire.

Making up the top five was "The Angel of the North", by Antony Gormley, and Martin Jennings' "Women of Steel" in Sheffield.

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Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and an expert judge on Sky Arts' Landmark, said: "This list includes some really nice surprises. It’s curious what is missed from the list, such as Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure on the side of John Lewis on Oxford Street and Gillian Wearing’s Real Birmingham Family.

"Perhaps some public works are so integrated with their place that they become unseen.

"I think the public selection shows how figurative sculpture and narrative are seen to be incredibly important in terms of accessibility and conveying messages. Some of the sculptures also indicate the importance of place, forming a kind of bridge between history and now."

Other popular pieces of outdoor artwork across the UK include "Another Place", the haunting series of sculptures by Antony Gormley on Crosby Beach in Merseyside found itself sixth on the list.

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"Hands and Molecule", in Ramsgate, Kent, which is a nod to the discovery, development, and manufacture of innovative medicines in the county, was in seventh spot.

Making up the top 10 are "The Millennium Sculpture" (The Tinnies), in Strabane, Northern Ireland, "Cerne Abbas", the giant naked chalk man in Dorset, and the Marcus Rashford mural, by Akse in Manchester.

Separate research found three-quarters of UK adults think famous outdoor artwork is a great way to put a place on the map.

However, 59% say there isn't enough free outdoor artwork within 10 miles of where they live.

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Almost six in 10 (59%t) would love it if a "Banksy" appeared overnight near their home, with 48% adding that they’d like one of the mysterious guerrilla artist’s pieces to appear on the side of their home.

Two-thirds (65%) said people should find time to explore artistic landmarks which are local to their home.

The same figure said they want councils to allow local artists to turn disused public land into art hubs.

The new show is fronted by Gemma Cairney, who delves into the purpose and power of public art as she joins Sky Arts on a mission to create the UK’s next major landmark.

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She is joined by two expert judges – curator Clare Lilley and visual artist Hetain Patel – as well as six famous faces, all of them ready to root out the best artistic talent in the region or nation they call home.

As part of the series, Sky Arts is investing £700,000 in public art in total, commissioning 18 brand new pieces of public art around the country as well as a final national landmark worth £250,000.

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: "Public art can be a source of pride and love and it’s great to see such a thoughtful, passionate response in support of Tommy – a piece that means such a lot in his local community.

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"We’re looking forward to adding more joy to the world when Landmark hits the air next month."

Landmark airs weekly from September 6 at 8pm on Sky Arts (Freeview Channel 11) and streaming service NOW.

Top 20 pieces of outdoor artwork:

  1. Tommy statue, Ray Lonsdale, Seaham

  2. The Kelpies, Andy Scott, Falkirk

  3. Uffington White Horse, Unknown, Oxfordshire

  4. The Angel of the North, Antony Gormley, Gateshead

  5. Women of Steel, Martin Jennings, Sheffield

  6. Another Place, Antony Gormley, Crosby Beach

  7. Hands and Molecule, David Barnes, Ramsgate

  8. The Millennium Sculpture (The Tinnies), Maurice Harron, Strabane

  9. Cerne Abbas, Unknown, Dorset

  10. Marcus Rashford mural, Akse, Manchester

  11. The Scallop, Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh beach

  12. Girl with the Pearl Earring, Banksy, Bristol

  13. Bottle of Notes, Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Middlesbrough

  14. Kielder Art & Architecture, Various, Northumberland

  15. People Like Us, John Clinch, Cardiff Bay

  16. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan, Toby and Gideon Petersen, Landovery

  17. Verity, Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe

  18. Superlambanana, Taro Chiezo, Liverpool

  19. Conversation Piece, Juan Munoz, South Shields

  20. Reaching Out, Thomas J Price, London

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