Removal of statues at the Shelbourne Hotel
Sir, – The removal of the series of statues from the front of the Shelbourne Hotel is outrageous. These, cast in a Paris studio, existed as an artistic manifestation in harmony with the overall facade of the hotel, with no political implications.
One could take the view that the present owners of the hotel are merely custodians of this wonderful part of Dublin’s Victorian heritage and have no right to unilaterally take it away. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL B BARRY,
Author of Victorian Dublin Revealed,
Sir, – I note with interest the diversity of interpretations that have arisen among letter writers surrounding the aesthetic and historical significance of the statues recently removed from the Shelbourne Hotel. One suggests the statues depict slaves of two Nubian princesses, others insist that this is a myth and that they are clad in jewellery rather than shackles, and another that the torches they hold aloft represent “Luciferian” symbols (so much for the Statue of Liberty).
What each perspective seemingly has in common is the assumption that there is only one way to correctly interpret a work of art, and that this depends in some important sense on the original intentions of the artist or facts about the historical context in which it was produced. This seems like a waste of potential to me —– works of art can contain multiple, sometimes contradictory, interpretations, and these can change over time. Consider, for example, the work of art that evokes pride in those who know it as “Mount Rushmore” but contempt in the Lakota Sioux who knew it as “The Six Grandfathers”.
For those (like myself) who see the statues as symbolic of racial injustice, misogyny and orientalism, these interpretations will remain valid regardless of the intentions of their maker or the subtle distinctions between a manacle and an anklet. The wonderful ability of art to mean different things to different people is a double-edged sword: if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then ugliness must be as well. – Yours, etc,
Dr BRIAN CAREY,
Trinity College Dublin.
Sir, – Did the artist who created the statues outside the Shelbourne Hotel not intend them to be a sign of hope, given that they are carrying torches / light? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Have all the hand-wringing you want but isn’t it rather a more important priority that we remove any existing slavery in today’s world before removing any statues from yesterday’s? – Yours, etc,
Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.
Sir, – To avoid any possible offence, I suggest the Shelbourne Hotel replace the apparently offensive effigies with those of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy! – Yours, etc,
Dr R MCVERRY,
Rostrevor, Co Down.