Sculpture on Sandymount strand creates shock waves


The appearance on Sandymount strand in Dublin of a 20-foot-high painted metal sculpture with a striking oriental look has come as a shock to local residents despite the presence of a planning notice on the site for the required number of weeks.

Previously exhibited in Japan under the title Geisha, renamed An Cailín Bán by the artist and soon to be christened Awaiting the Mariner, the sculpture is a gift from Mexican artist Sebastian to the city of Dublin. Already, the tall antlered-figure has been dubbed The Mexican Wave by local wags.

Reaction in the area is mixed, with shock at the size of the sculpture being expressed by many passers-by yesterday. "Art is better if it is custom-made for a particular site - it has to fit in with the culture of the area," said Green Party TD Mr John Gormley, who lives locally.

The sculpture may not be a permanent fixture on the strand - it can be moved within three months if residents object to it, according to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Dermot Lacey.

Sandymount and Merrion Residents' Association believes that it is not in keeping with the Georgian and Victorian surroundings of Sandymount.

"A statue like this may be appropriate for a motorway intersection or even St Anne's Park, where it was stored, but not Sandymount strand, where it's impossible to improve on the exceptional natural views," said Ms Claire Wheeler, speaking on behalf of local residents.

The residents' association's environment spokeswoman, Ms Lorna Kelly, said that the metal sculpture had already been corroded by the sea and was an obvious target for grafitti artists.

Mr Michael Stubbs, of Dublin City Council, explained that city officials had been approached by the Mexican ambassador to Ireland, Mr Agustin Basave, on behalf of the artist. However, sculptor Sebastian's decision to rename the work An Cailín Bán in honour of its proposed new Irish home had posed difficulties during the consultation process because of the name's connection with Kerry rather than Dublin.

"Art is art and it falls within the context of the council's commitment to the policy of public art," Mr Stubbs said. "Sebastian is a renowned sculptor who has produced pieces for cities such as Tokyo and Paris and he wanted to have something in Dublin."

Mr Stubbs pointed out that the new name, Awaiting the Mariner, had been suggested by the city council's heritage office because of the association of the Sandymount area with shipwrecks and the tradition of women gathering there to await the safe return of their menfolk.

Sebastian is a member of the World Arts Forum Council and has created a number of significant urban sculptures for his native Mexico as well as for cities around the world.

The President of Mexico, Mr Vincente Fox, who arrives in Ireland for an official visit on November 13th, will unveil the sculpture at a ceremony on Sandymount strand later that day.