A CONTROVERSIAL artist who photographs large groups of naked people in public places is hoping to stage a nude photoshoot in Newcastle later this year.

Spencer Tunick, from New York, has held naked photoshoots involving thousands of people, all over the world, including in San Francisco, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, in Brazil, and Melbourne, in Austria.

Now he has his sights set on doing the same along the banks of the River Tyne in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Mr Tunick has written to several key groups in the city asking for their views and has had discussions with arts organisations.

It is understood he wants to photograph people near the Baltic arts centre, in Gateshead, and on the Millennium Bridge, also known as the blinking eye, which crosses the River Tyne. If it gets the go-ahead, it is likely to take place in July.

He has previously photographed 4,000 naked people in the centre of Melbourne, and in April 2003, he photographed more than 500 people in Selfridges in London.

In 2003, he organised the world's largest nude photoshoot ever, in which 7,000 bared all in Barcelona, Spain.

Since 1992, Mr Tunick has been arrested five times while attempting to work outdoors in New York City. The cases were subsequently dropped.

A Baltic spokeswoman said: "We have had a couple of discussions with him, but we have discussions with a lot of artists."

A spokeswoman for the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, which aims to promote the area as a lively place to live, work and visit, said: "Mr Tunick has approached a number of organisations with the idea of doing something here.

"He has asked us if we are interested in doing a project with him, but we get a lot of approaches from artists wanting to do projects.

"It will depend on whether it is right for the city and the infrastructure, how many people he envisages using and the time of the year, because you would not want to get your clothes off in the winter."

Published: 05/04/2005