Widerberg Sculpture opens new University Gallery

 Date:27/11/2004 - 04/12/2004
 Type:Culture, Exhibition
 Location:England, Newcastle

A 6 ½ metre bronze sculpture by the internationally renowned Norwegian artist, Nico Widerberg, is unveiled outside the new wing to the University Gallery (University of Northumbria) to celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the Gallery

Nico Widerberg was comissioned by the City of Newcastle upon Tyne to produce a major piece of sculpture which would be placed outside the new wing of the Gallery.

The 6.5 metre high broonze stands on a bed of polished granite, and is the only comissioned work by a foreign artist in a series of sculptures to mark the locations of the city's Hidden Rivers.

After a year of major construction and building alterations the Gallery will reopen to the public on Saturday 27 November with exhibitions which include sculpture by Nicolaus Widerberg, watercolours by Frans Widerberg and  paintings by the Scottish Colourists.

Nico Widerberg’s monumental bronze sculpture ‘Pillar Man’, commissioned as part of the City’s Hidden Rivers scheme, is unveiled on 26 November by The Lord Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne, Councillor George Douglas, and attended by the artist Nicolaus Widerberg, Councillor David Faulkner, Executive Member, Culture, Heritage & Sport for Newcastle City Council, and H.E. Mr Tarald O. Brautaset, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Great Britain

'Frans Widerberg: Watercolours' runs from 27 November until 24 December.

University Gallery
Northumbria University
Sandyford Road
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST

Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4pm

Ambassador Brautaset's speech at the unveiling:

Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Vice Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I’m very grateful to you Lord Mayor for inviting me to Newcastle to take part in this evening’s important event.

It is a great honour to be invited to speak at the unveiling of Nicolaus Widerberg’s sculpture. I understand that the ‘Pillar Man’ is the first of five works of art to be completed  in  Newcastle’s very ambitious and most exciting ‘Hidden Rivers’ project.

This project is reflecting on Newcastle’s streams and small rivers -     the burns - which run beneath its surface. They all flow into the River Tyne. They were previously a natural part of the city, but gradually, they were covered over and disappeared.

Over the last decade or so, we have witnessed a resurgence of interest in waterfronts in major cities all over the world, and the River Tyne here in Newcastle and across the river in Gateshead is no exception. 

The ‘Hidden River’ project builds on this interest, but also explores the historic, social and economic importance of the burns as well as the topography and geography.  So, through public art an important element in this proud City’s history will be made more legible.


‘Hidden Rivers’ is a public art project designed to set a contemporary imprint on the landscape with works in a number of strategically important locations under which the hidden and partially forgotten rivers flow. The project will create a ‘collection’ of works which orientate the viewer and provide a physical and conceptual guide to the city.  At the same time it links the city’s present to its past.

I know that the creation of the ‘Pillar Man’ has been a long process for the artist, Nico. It has taken two years of hard work by him and his team to reach the final point: tonight’s  unveiling. They are indeed to be congratulated. And I know that Mara-Helen Wood has played a hugely important role as well. Without her, this new extension of the gallery would not have seen the light of day. Her intimate  knowledge of the Norwegian art scene and her activities over many years at the University Gallery make her a tremendous asset not only to the artists, to Newcastle,  but also to my Embassy.  For that I am deeply grateful.

Nico Widerberg’s  monolithic sculpture was first shaped in clay and then cast in bronze. It has a hand-modelled surface which alternates between smooth and rough. The patina of the bronze is dark and appears almost black, a stark contrast against the white walls of the gallery. The river on which the sculpture sits is shaped from dark blue-grey Norwegian granite, polished to a gloss to give the illusion of water.  I believe it is an outstanding example of his art, timeless and impressive, yet intimate.

This commission is, by any standard, for any artist, a huge and prestigious project. Nico Widerberg has lived up to the challenge and has again confirmed himself as one of our leading artists. The sculpture is also a remarkable testimony to the strong ties that exist between this country and my own, strong ties that also existed when the burns flowed in the open.

‘Pillar Man’ is the largest bronze sculpture ever cast in Norway and Nico has thus pushed the limits again like many times before in his remarkable career. He grew up watching his father paint, but it was not obvious that he was to become a visual artist. I have it from good sources that his first ambition was to become a musician. I’m sure he would have been a fine one, but I think we are all grateful that he left professional music to others and instead picked up a hammer and chisel.

Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The artist, the supporters, the sponsors, the workers and the people of Newcastle are all to be congratulated on their new sculpture and on the reopening of the extended University Gallery.

Thank you!














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Nico Widerberg

'The Pillar Man'

Widerberg's sculpture in Newcastle