Gormley's £400k art docks by the shore

HE CUTS a lonely figure, staring out over Leith Docks, but soon this solitary wanderer will be joined by five friends.

The first of six life-size sculptures by Turner Prize-winning artist Anthony Gormley has been installed on an abandoned pier near Ocean Terminal.

The cast-iron works – called 6 Times – are the first works in the Capital by the artist, who is famous for creating the Angel of the North in Gateshead.

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• Do you like the Anthony Gormley sculpture which has been unveiled in Leith?

Once the series is completed in June, three of the figures will be placed in the Water of Leith itself as a gauge for the water's height at Stockbridge, Powderhall and Bonnington, while a fifth will be placed in a pool of water behind the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The sixth will be buried up to its neck in the museum's grounds.

Curator Philip Long said: "I think there is a connection to be made between this first figure, buried in the ground, and the last, looking out to the sea – but the symbolism will come out in people's own interpretations.

"People will wonder why there's one figure buried up to its neck. I think to Anthony, making half a figure would be slightly cheating."

Mr Long approached the artist after the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art won 100,000 in the 2004 Gulbenkian Prize for museum of the year.

The sculptures, which cost about 400,000, were then commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the remainder funded by several organisations including the Art Fund.

Mr Long said: "We wanted to use that funding to develop another ambitious project and we spoke to Anthony Gormley, who by then had become a major international artist."

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Mr Gormley suggested a line of figures leading out to the sea and the statues were built in his London studio. The first statue near Ocean Terminal took about three days to install and was completed last week.

The artist said the works would be about connecting different parts of the city in the viewer's mind.

"When you see one you will, perhaps, remember another," he said. "The idea is to play a part in the making of a scene, a picture, a reality, incomplete without you: the observer."

Not everyone is in favour of the project, however.

When the statues were first proposed, Craiglockhart and Fountainbridge Councillor Gordon Buchan was one of those to raise concerns that they could cause blockages in the waterway and his worries remain.

He said: "I am still concerned. I believe others with a technical interest in the river are concerned about issues of sedimentation and the way the river dynamics work with an object in them.

"I'm not completely convinced, I'm afraid to say, and I'm not sure if those wishing to promote this scheme have satisfied all the technical issues with those who have to manage and to look after the river."