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The Autumn sunrises over the North Sea as The Couple by artist Sean Henery sits just off the coast at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, NorthumberlandThe Autumn sunrises over the North Sea as The Couple by artist Sean Henery sits just off the coast at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

Jonathan Jones, who has been a judge for the prestigious Turner Prize and BP Portrait Award, named Newbiggin-by-the-Sea’s ‘Couple’ installation as one the six worst works of British public art in his Guardian column.

The bronze and steel artwork, by Sean Henry, was completed in August 2007 and erected as part of a £10m refurbishment project in the seaside town, which also included 500, 000 tonnes of new sand for the beach, a new breakwater in the bay, improvements to the promenade and a new playground.

The sculpture is 20m long and 12m high and depicts a woman and man looking out to sea.

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Jones said: “The stupidest sculpture of the past 20 years has to be this eye-wounding erection on a seashore that never did any harm to anyone.

“The tasteless, dull, idiotic figures of a man and woman are placed, with monumental ugliness, on top of a gigantic scaffold just to make sure the artwork totally wrecks its environment.”Also making the list are the Gloucester Tower, Kirkby Tree, a giant foot in Flint, North Wales, ‘B of the Bang’ in Manchester, and ‘Scallop’ in Aldeburgh.

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Couple (Photo: Ian Harman)

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea CoupleGive us your opinion: North East public art: Stupid or beautiful?

Karen Carr, who works at a Newbiggin company specialising in road, fire and community safety products, said the town in split down the middle on their sculpture.

She said: “It is one of these 50/50 things. It is a strange piece but that is what is about.

“It certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone but there are people who travel to the town only to see the Couple.

“It stirred up more bad feeling when it was first erected but now I think some people here are adopting it, as happened with the Angel of the North.”

Coun Malcolm Peden, the town’s mayor, said the UK’s only offshore artwork has not been bad for Newbiggin.

He added: “It is certainly no longer as divisive as it once was and I think it is growing on the populace.

“I think it has been a good thing for the town overall as it has got people down to our fantastic beach, which is no bad thing.”

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