New sculpture reflects the diversity and queer history of Dublin

A new sculpture in Dublin's city centre explores Dublin’s queer history and diversity.

Colourful candle sculpture outside Dublin city hall
Image: Alan Phelan, New Sculpture captures Dublin queer history

“I wanted to make a sculpture that looked familiar yet was rooted in a tangle of historical references that bring different contexts and content to the work”


The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, unveils the first sculpture in the Sculpture Dublin Programme today. The inaugural work, RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose, by artist Alan Phelan, located outside Dublin City Hall, explores Dublin’s queer history and diversity.

The sculpture, which stands at 5.5 metres, was commission to be placed on the site of the O’Connell plinth, the original site of a marble statue of Daniel O’Connell. The statue was relocated inside the building in the 1860s leaving the plinth vacant for over 150 years. 

Phelan’s colourful and dynamic work incorporates a number of references to its immediate location but also the wider city. The sconce, or candle holder, design is reminiscent of Georgian plasterwork, a prominent feature of the city architecture. Whilst the red, green and blue colouring, which make up the full-colour spectrum of light, represents the diversity and changing inclusion in the city. 

In his launch statement, Mr Phelan said, “I wanted to make a sculpture that looked familiar yet was rooted in a tangle of historical references that bring different contexts and content to the work”.

The subtitle of the work, Hold Your Nose, is a quote from a collection of poems, the ‘Sanitary Songs’. The poems were published during the 1884 Dublin Castle Scandal. They were intended to undermine support for British appointed civil servants who had been implemented in the investigation of a ‘homosexual ring’ in the city. The poem instructs ‘decent men’ to ‘hold your nose’ in order to avoid the perceived corrupting homosexuality of Dublin Castle.

In unveiling the sculpture, Lord Mayor Gilliland stated, “Sculpture has played such a vital role in Dublin life, now and historically, and the various stories and perspectives reflected in the artwork strive for a shared sense of place.”

The Sculpture Dublin Programme is an initiative by Dublin City Council which aims to commission a series of six new works in order to raise awareness and encourage people to engage with the sculpture throughout the city.

In response to receiving the commission, Phelan said, “I am honoured to have been selected to create this very special work for the city. Sculpture Dublin is an incredibly important initiative to bring contemporary sculpture into the public awareness.”

RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose can be viewed outside Dublin Castle throughout the coming year. You can explore more of Alan Phelan’s work here.

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