Sunday, 30 January 2011


Maggi Hambling is a celebrity by anyone’s standards and we like to call her a local celebrity, because she has been teaching art at nearby Morley College since the 70s. Any woman who wants to learn how to wear a black Fedora  hat with style should hang around and watch out for Maggi. 

After years of campaigning, this tribute by her to the playwright Oscar Wilde was unveiled in Adelaide Street, near Trafalgar Square, behind St Martins in the Field, and opposite Charing Cross Station in 1998. Directions are necessary to find it, because the sculpture is darkish (bronze and green granite) and low-lying. Most people-monuments are situated spectacularly high above us mere mortals. Around the base is a line from Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan: ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’.

Wilde’s head and shoulders appear to rise from a granite ‘coffin’. It’s a bit unnerving. But it’s a coffin with a difference: it doubles up as a bench to sit on, a place to share a quiet, still moment of ‘conversation’ with this famous Irish wit and playwright, amid all the noise and movement of central London . You can even - to enter into the spirit of the thing - consider sharing a cigarette with him, for Hambling intended Wilde to be defiantly smoking.
Unfortunately when she designed the piece she did not foresee that the bronze cigarette would get repeatedly stolen. 
Barry Till, former Principal of Morley College, by Maggi Hambling
If you look closely you can see that when I took the top photograph this morning he had the stub of someone else’s in the palm of his hand. He usually does. Hambling, who gave up smoking in 2004, campaigned against the total ban on smoking in public places in England on the grounds of freedom of choice. We know that such a ban saves thousands of people, born and yet unborn,  from illness and early death in this country alone.  
But Wilde is outside anyone's jurisdiction.

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit off of VistaVapors, and I enjoy it a lot.