Supermarket Morrisons has paid the price for an advertising stunt on the Angel of the North.
The company has apologised to sculptor Antony Gormley and made a donation to a charity of his choice after admitting they got it wrong when they projected the image of a baguette onto the artwork.
Bosses accept they damaged the integrity of the Angel after the artist complained they had trivialised his work.
Morrisons also admit they did not have the artist’s permission and they had breached his legal rights by the misjudged joke.
In an apology the supermarket said: “Morrisons did this without Sir Antony’s permission and acknowledges that this activity actively damages the integrity of this artwork, was misjudged, and was an inappropriate use of a public artwork of significant importance and reputation.”
The incident happened in May when Morrisons used the image to draw attention to their cut-price offers in the wake of competition from Aldi and Lidl.
It immediately caused a controversy with Sir Antony saying the stunt was “shocking and stupid” and an attack on North shipbuilders and miners.
He told BBC Radio 4: “I was shocked and appalled by that, I have to say.
“I was the instigator of a totemic object that was made by the out-of-work shipbuilders from the Swan Hunter’s yard that had been closed, on the site of the Lower Team Colliery where people had worked for nearly a quarter of a century underground.
“It doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the North East, and to see it trivialised like this was shocking and stupid.”
Critics of the stunt included Gateshead MP Ian Mearns who said it was “tacky” and Rory Sutherland of national advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather UK who claimed it was “removable graffiti.”
At the time Morrisons claimed it was trying to make people smile.
The supermarket said: “We’re sorry if you thought we got carried away by shining a baguette on the Angel of the North and apologise unreservedly to those to whom we have caused offence.
“We were trying something different which was meant to put a smile on people’s faces but clearly it wasn’t to everybody’s tastes. We’re so proud of our northern roots and the last thing we want to do is offend anybody.”
Sir Antony has an agreement with Gateshead Council not to allow any lighting on the Angel.
The baguette was emblazoned on the angel’s 54 metres (177 ft) wings and had the slogan “I’m cheaper at Morrison’s.”