A sculpture of Oscar Wilde could be installed in Chelsea after the Church of England’s Consistory Court rejected objections about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality.

The sculpture, by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, will be of Oscar Wilde’s head with an inscription relating to Wilde on the reverse, and the plan is to display it in Dovehouse Green on the King’s Road in Chelsea to mark the centenary of the sculptor’s birth.

The location was chosen as Paolozzi lived on Dovehouse Street next to the mini-park and would have been familiar with it. The sculpture is also notable for being an unfinished piece of work, cast after the artist’s death, so it hasn’t been publicly displayed before. This “new” sculpture would be an interesting way to mark the centenary of the sculptor’s birth.

However, although you’d never know it from looking at it, Dovehouse Green is, in fact, a former Church of England burial ground. It’s also arguably not that green, being mostly paving and paths with some trees.

The proposed sculpture (c) Paolozzi Foundation

Although now managed by Kensington and Chelsea council as a public park, it’s still consecrated land and the Church of England needs to approve a change to the ground.

There was a public exhibition at nearby St Luke’s church, and the main reason for wanting to install the sculpture was to commemorate the sculptor rather than the sculpture’s subject. The church and the council support the proposal, and the council will use some of its existing art funding to cover the cost of installing the sculpture.

Initially, the Consistory Court was minded to wave the request through as it looked uncontroversial, but then someone objected that Oscar Wilde’s moral character meant that placing the sculpture on consecrated ground would be offensive.

An objection made, the court had to rule on the merits of their objection.

Although the objector cited concerns about the appearance of the sculpture, it’s clear from the between the lines of the ruling that the person is very religious and their main objection was that Oscar Wilde was gay.

The objector argued that Wilde’s “moral character” meant he was an unsuitable subject for the sculpture.

It probably didn’t help their case that the objector also tried to restrict what information the court would place in the public domain. Although the court was sympathetic to the objector’s concerns about having his identity revealed, there was a hint of steel in the court’s response.

After considering the matter, in his ruling David Etherington KC said that on the issue of Wilde’s moral character, the “objection is greatly and, in some respects, absurdly over-stated”. The other matters raised by the objector, such as that Oscar Wilde wasn’t that good an author or that the council doesn’t spend money wisely were also rejected.

The court approved plans to commemorate Paolozzi’s centenary in the park near where Paolozzi lived.

Now that the court has rejected the religious complaint, secular permission from Kensington and Chelsea Council is needed before it can be installed. Although the council will fund the installation, the Paolozzi Foundation is also fundraising to complete the project.

All going well, later this year, both Oscar Wilde and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi will be celebrated in Chelsea. Just remember that even today, someone was willing to go to court to stop that from happening because they don’t like gays.


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  1. Giselle says:

    I’m very glad to see that the church court knocked this objectionable objection on the head, so to speak.
    I’m glad the artwork will likely get installed.
    The head is very Paolozzi, and not very Oscar Wilde. It looks really odd, that’s a shame (I guess I don’t get art). Oh well, better something odd than a bit too pretty or twee.

    • Gloria Glitterbosom says:

      And – of course – Oscar Wilde tlived in Chelsea, 34 Tite St, London SW3 4JA, which bears a blue plaque.

  2. Paul says:

    How will the homophobic complainer react when he learns the tombs of Richard II and James I/VI are in Westminster Abbey?

  3. ChrisC says:

    TBH there are straight people with far more dubious moral and actual character than Mr Wilde who have statues all over the place dedicated to them!

    I’m not familiar with church courts but for a normal, local authority planning application names and addresses are redacted from the public coments – unless you put them in to the text of your comment in which case that’s your own fault!

    Mind ‘lack of moral character’ isn’t a valid plannign ground for a planning committee to deny an application.

  4. Reaper says:

    I would have thought the objectors would have had a better chance had they focused on the fact that it is plainly just a very poor piece of work. Any chance a passing scrap merchant will “come across it by accident” and recycle the whole thing?

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