When Londonist wrote about the soap sculpture in Cavendish Square last week I knew this was something I had to see for myself. Much like the structure featured in last week’s post, Paleys upon Pilers, Meekyoung Shin’s soap sculpture is a temporary addition to London’s streetscape, which is part art installation, part historical reference.
This soap scultpure of the Duke of Cumberland, which launched on 24 July, replaces the one originally installed in 1770 then removed in 1868 when the subject became increasingly unpopular. While the fate of the original statue is unknown, the stone plinth has stood empty ever since in the middle of Cavendish Square, just behind Oxford Circus.
While Shin’s work is indeed made of (vegetable-based) soaps it does include a metal skeletal armature attached to the base on which it stands to hold the sculpture upright. The piece was intended to be as close as possible to the original, based on existing sketches – although the exact dimensions remain unknown it was created to fit the proportions of the plinth. Intriguingly there are no signs in the square about its latest addition, so I can only guess that the casual visitor would assume it was an ordinary statue.
Shin’s work has much to say about the changeable nature of art, monuments and history – she is particularly interested in the way that history is drawn (and re-drawn and erased) on the urban landscape. The sculpture will remain in Cavendish Square for one year – and it’s anyone’s guess how it will endure the four seasons. I plan to revisit it over this time and will update you on how it is progressing.