The Sculpture ‘Marmite’ Question:

What do you love?

Sanja Iveković, Lady Rosa of Luxembourg, 2001-09, Eva International, Limerick, Ireland (photo: courtesy of EVA International)
Sanja Iveković, Lady Rosa of Luxembourg, gilded polyester and wood, 2001-2009, Eva International, Limerick, Ireland (photo: courtesy of EVA International)

What do you hate?

Richard Serra, Sean's Spiral
Richard Serra, Sean's Spiral, steel, 1984, St. James's Gate, Ushers, Dublin, Ireland (photo: courtesy of Guinness Archive, Dublin)

Matt Packer replies:

I have often questioned the way that activism in art builds its effective dependency on the media that surround the issue itself, but Sanja Iveković’s Lady Rosa of Luxembourg, 2001-9, leaves no doubt. It is an appropriation of a war memorial known as Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady) – a gilded neoclassical Nike figure, perched on top of a 69 ft high obelisk in Luxembourg City. Iveković’s appropriation differs from the original monument. She has dedicated the work to Marxist philosopher and activist Rosa Luxemburg; making her visibly pregnant and replacing the commerative text at the base of the obelisk with poster texts.

Another iteration of the work is now installed in Limerick at EVA International. This coincides with the referundum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in Ireland, giving equal right to life of the mother and the unborn, thus creating legal restriction on abortion in the country. The issue is likely to be increasingly divisive as the referendum draws closer, and Iveković’s Lady Rosa of Luxembourg work will be particularly resonant.

To my mind, the story of Richard Serra Sean’s Spiral, 1984, reads like a perfect model of artistic entropy and has a legacy that is quite compromising in terms of public sculpture. Sean’s Spiral was commissioned by ROSC 84, bringing international art to Ireland. Serra’s work was designed as a spiral of steel beams inset into the cobbled streets near the old Guinnness brewery. It also incorporated a motif that was borrowed from wall carvings at the tomb at Newgrange (Ireland) 5000 years ago.

Despite Serra’s instructions it was impossible to bend the steel into a circle at late notice. He had a day and a half to rethink the work. Instead of the circle, Sean’s Spiral became a triangle, with Serra notably angered and disappointed. The work remains today in a part of Dublin that is regularly used as a setting for nineteenth and early twentieth-century period dramas. I have seen Sean’s Spiral several times on screen though its barely discernible; an artwork that fell foul of the artist’s intentions, caught on the TV screen in the wrong era.