On a side street off Soho Square, you can find a sculpture of Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon and of magic sitting on the front of a hotel. It would be easy to assume the sculpture is called The Resident, but that’s the name of the hotel.
It was created by Huw Locke, who was commissioned by the Resident hotel to create a sculpture representing sleep, which is apt for a hotel. He says on his website that he wanted to “make a classical statue with a contemporary twist, and was keen to create a statue of a black woman, rare in London.” adding that the “statue is informed by Art Nouveau, Victorian fairy paintings (especially those of Atkinson Grimshaw), and by the sight of a group of tall, glamorous drag queens parading down the road in Soho at three o’clock one afternoon.”
The figure comes as an inspiration from Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dreams, and is a reference to dreams, sleep, and Theatreland.
The wings of the figure are perforated with stars which are designed to shine out at night. The piece is covered with stars some of which, along with other spikes, are exploding from the body of the figure like fireworks. These are not just decorative, as they’ve been added to deter pigeons from roosting.
Public art commissions have to think about the wider issues.
The figure carries a garland of the masks of Hypnos god of sleep and dreams as well as flowers of the dragon fruit which come out at night. The garland contains jasmine flowers which are night-scented and flowers which were used to make the sleeping drafts which feature prominently in Shakespeare’s plays.
The Hypnos reference is notable, as the hotel’s original plans for the sculpture was for one of Hypnos, the god of sleep, but after going out to artists, they chose the current design, which was then approved by the council.
The statue also holds night-blooming dragon fruit flowers, this particular variety is named the ‘David Bowie’, and references Ziggy Stardust’s associations with Soho.
Huw Locke, born in Edinburgh in 1959, completed is BA in 1988, and came to national attention winning a number of awards for his contemporary installations at the V&A Museum.
The sculpture was installed in 2013.