The life-sized bronze statue of Amy Winehouse planned for the Roundhouse, near her Camden home, will doubtless have its critics. Statues always do.
Just look at the opprobrium heaped on not just the architectural design but the human figures in the memorial to Bomber Command at Hyde Park Corner.
Or the grimly faux-naif – or just plain naïf - statue of Michael Jackson erected by Mohammed Al-Fayed at Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage Ground. Or the orgy of three-dimensional , kitsch-romantic Jack Vettriano-style gigantism that is The Meeting Place – otherwise known as “that awful statue of the kissing couple” – by Paul Day at St Pancras International.
Or Maggie Hambling’s A Conversation With Oscar Wilde, on the pedestrianized part of Adelaide St behind St Martin-in-the-Fields by Charing Cross, which aimed to show Wilde “rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus”, at least until his bronze cigarette was repeatedly pilfered…
Actually, I believe Londoners have become fond of, or at least accustomed to, Hambling’s sculpture, and would probably protest if it were removed (though the Daily Telegraph’s theatre critic, Charles Spencer, has written that he would like to smash it).
The Henry Moore sculptures dotting the capital were once contentious, but there was an outcry when Tower Hamlets council tried to sell the recumbent Moore figure popularly known as Old Flo. The Fourth Plinth project in Trafalgar Square brought a great public engagement in contemporary sculpture.
And it is surely a better reflection of London’s polymorphous present that we should have statues of Wilde and Winehouse and even giant embracing lovers rather than just the monuments to our regal, political and imperial past.
We’ve become inured to those: the once-hated sculptures of Churchill and Lloyd George in Parliament Square, Viscount Slim in the Mall, the Battle of Britain memorial on the Embankment.
I don’t have figures – I’m not sure anyone does – on the number of public sculptures in London relative to other major European cities, but I have always felt Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona had a much freer attitude to placing modern statuary in a their historic streets and squares. Maybe that is at last changing.
These are the first images of a life-size bronze statue of the late singer Amy Winehouse set to be installed at a music venue close to her London home in tribute to her short life.
The designs show her clad in a trademark retro-style dress, with her hair in a beehive and decorated with a rose.
It is hoped that the Amy Winehouse Memorial Statue will be placed in the Roundhouse later this year.
The Chalk Farm Road venue is about a mile from the Camden Square home where she died in 2011 after a long battle with drink and drugs. The six-time Grammy winner and Back to Black singer died of alcohol poisoning.
The project is backed by her father Mitch, who told of his annoyance that some people oppose it on the grounds she was not a good role model because of her substance abuse.
“The reason why there will hopefully be a statue of her at the Roundhouse is everyone loved Amy,” he said. “She was a strong girl who had weaknesses. Even the strongest people have them.”
He went on: “Amy was a wonderful person, who did a lot for Camden and for kids. She was one of the greatest singers the world has ever known so why shouldn’t we put a statue up?”
It is planned to install the work, by sculptor Scott Eaton, on a first-floor terrace overlooking the road so it is visible both to people inside and outside the building.
The singer gave her final performance at the venue three days before she died. The Amy Winehouse Foundation has since contributed to the Roundhouse Trust, which helps young people to get involved in music.
The trust’s operations head James Heaton said: “The artwork aims to capture Amy’s vitality and music by faithfully rendering her beauty and iconic sense of style.”
He said it would also “alleviate the pressure” on Camden Square, where her fans at present regularly congregate. Camden council will decide this year whether to allow the memorial — but deputy mayor Jonathan Simpson said it had his “absolute support”.
Ben Luke Contemporary Art Critic
Scott Eaton’s statue of Amy Winehouse presents an idealised image. In its maquette form, it has an unerring smoothness that seems at odds with the idea of representing a real person. Although it’s a convincing likeness, with Winehouse’s trademark beehive, her long mane of hair and her characteristic bone structure, it has the empty sheen of an action figure.
This might be because Eaton uses 3D printing and computer graphics alongside time-honoured sculptural traditions. In this form at least, the immaculate coldness of his technology seems apparent.
But it’s not just a technological problem. The fact is that creating a moving tribute to an individual is fiendishly difficult. The best sculptures capture their subject’s weight, warmth and presence, yet few of the thousands of statues across London achieve this and that’s why so many remain utterly ignorable.
The hope that it will draw people away from Camden Square may be forlorn. Winehouse’s untimely demise is now part of her story, and the fans’ pilgrimages to the square reflect their fascination with her not just as a singer but as a tragic icon. As Andy Warhol understood when he painted Marilyn Monroe after her overdose, death adds to a star’s aura. I doubt an airbrushed sculpture on a terrace outside a music venue will fulfil the fans’ desire to acknowledge Winehouse’s sad fate.
The planning application speaks of capturing “the vitality of Amy” and yet the maquette is so lacking in spirit. The real memorial to Winehouse, where her true spirit and vitality can be found, already exists — it’s called Back To Black. Do we need a lifeless bronze to commemorate her?