What’s your favourite public sculpture in Dublin?

The members of Sculpture Dublin’s Steering Group and team tell us what their favourite public sculpture in Dublin is — and why.

Steering Group

Barbara Dawson, Director, Hugh Lane Gallery

Suzanne Walking in a Leather Skirt by Julian Opie (2006)
Parnell Square North, Dublin 1
I take great joy from Dublin’s wonderful tradition of public sculpture. From the discreet to the flamboyant and the monumental, they wend through the city, enhancing its streets, parks and communities; bringing delight, awe and provocation to locals and visitors alike. One of the Dublin’s more recent additions symbolises, for me, the humanity of the city, as it negotiates its traditions and contemporary life. Aloft on her stone plinth, Julian Opie’s Suzanne Walking in a Leather Skirt, neither heroic nor static, moves to the sway of her LED lights.  She is a celebration of the ordinary citizen; contemporary woman elevated to commemorative status, walking in the city. What better expression of present day Dublin. 

Caroline Maher, Administrative Officer, Parks and Landscape Services

Molly Malone by Jeanne Rynhart (1988)
St. Andrew’s Street, Dublin 2
A well-known and often photographed sculpture in Dublin is the Molly Malone statue. It was moved from Grafton Street to its current location on St. Andrew’s Street in front of the Tourist Office, providing a great photo opportunity for visitors to the city. In 1988 the Dublin Millennium Commission proclaimed 13 June as “Molly Malone Day” after the fictional character who worked as a “fishwife” during the day and a “lady of the night” by night. She died on 13 June 1699. The song Molly Malone is a famous Dublin Ballad and a great song to sing along to. This piece is a personal favourite of mine — my mum is also a Mollie!

Leslie Moore, Chief Parks Superintendent, Parks, Biodiversity and Landscape Services

Tribute Head II by Elisabeth Frink (1975)
Merrion Square Park, Dublin 2
In 2014, when we were carrying out a study of the sculptures in Merrion Square Park, I was drawn to a reference to Nelson Mandela. The sculpture, which had become engulfed in vegetation, had no resemblance to Mandela – it was a bust of no one in particular with closed eyes and a strained, tortured expression. I have subsequently been fascinated by how Frink captured the sense of pain and inhumanity that still exists in our world. Created for Amnesty International, the figure represents “a tribute to all people who have died or suffered for their beliefs”. This Tribute Head is my favourite sculpture in the park and will be relocated in 2021 to a more prominent location close to the show-off Oscar Wilde, who draws all the attention! 

Noel Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Visual Arts Ireland

The Three Fates by Josef Wackerle (1956)
St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
For me, The Three Fates fountain in Stephen’s Green has always symbolised an Ireland that I want to be part of: one that offered help when most needed, and to a country not necessarily high on the popularity list at the time. Ireland overcame prejudice and helped Germany following World War II, and the West German government later gifted this sculpture to the Irish nation in recognition of their appreciation. It shows us clearly the importance of overcoming differences.

Paula Murphy, Professor Emerita, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin

Monument to Daniel O’Connell by John Henry Foley (1882)
O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
When John Henry Foley was selected to do the O’Connell Monument for Dublin, he was the best sculptor for the job. The monument is everything a nineteenth-century public monument should be – artistic, historic, engaging and informing. It sits comfortably in the city, without dominating its environs. I once went to photograph the monument in the early morning sunlight and so I saw it before the crowds and the traffic appeared. It was breathtaking. Try it sometime. You’ll never forget it.

Ruairi Ó Cuív, Public Art Officer, Dublin City Council

Luke Kelly by Vera Klute (2019)
Sheriff Street & Guild Street, Dublin 1
This sculpture, commissioned by Dublin City Council, captures the essence of Luke Kelly. As the artist wrote: “When his name was mentioned I immediately had an image in my head. He has a very distinct look and I find his face fascinating. It’s very masculine, thoughtful and sensitive… For me it’s all about the face, the passion and the emotional connection. By stripping the sculpture down to just that and making this expression huge, I want to confront people with that energy and intensity. Just like Luke’s own appearance I wanted to make the sculpture visually very distinctive. Once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it and you couldn’t mistake it for anyone else.”

Donncha Ó Dúlaing, Senior Executive Officer, Parks, Biodiversity and Landscape Services

James Larkin by Oisín Kelly (1978)
O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
As a boy in primary school on Marlborough Street in the late 1970s I passed O’Connell and Parnell every day, bookending the avenue of patriots that was O’Connell Street. Suddenly Oisín Kelly’s stunning and dramatic depiction of Big Jim Larkin appeared as if from nowhere. We were learning of his deeds in school, watching Peter O’Toole play him on RTÉ’s Strumpet City and now here he was imploring me and all citizens to rise from our knees. His mammoth hands and provocative stance were awe inspiring in their execution. Having had the privilege to be involved in the conservation of the statue in 2005, its impact is undiminished.

Ray Yeates, City Arts Officer, Dublin City Council

Misneach by John Byrne (2010)
Trinity Comprehensive School, Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin 9
I was involved in finding a site for John Byrne’s Misneach in 2010. Commissioned by Breaking Ground, it is a striking replica of the bronze warhorse that used to seat the sculpture of Lord Gough in the Phoenix Park. Instead of a military figure, John Byrne chose to place a young Ballymun girl in hoody, jeans and sneakers astride the great steed, thereby inverting our ideas of heroes and commemoration. The young girl in question was a student at Trinity Comprehensive when she had a full body cast made for her bronze figure. And it is in front of the entrance to ‘The Comp’ that the statue was finally installed. A continual tribute to the young people who pass it every morning.

Sculpture Dublin Team

Karen Downey, Programme Director, Sculpture Dublin

Units of Potential by Alice Rekab (2011)
Lir National Academy for Dramatic Arts, Pearse Street, Dublin 2

I’m going for Alice Rekab’s Units of Potential commissioned for the Lir Academy of Dramatic Arts. I like the artist’s ideas around creativity and energy; the academy as an incubation space for talent that bubbles up and spills out into the world. I like her smart, unlikely use of materials: luminous, green fibreglass against black brick, lit sustainably from “a chemistry derived from natural, non-toxic, rare earth minerals”. Mostly, though, I like it because it surprised me — one day while stopped at the lights approaching the Grand Canal Bridge — it drew me from a daydream back into the space of the city, where anything can happen.

Julia Moustacchi, Public Engagement Curator, Sculpture Dublin

Ag Crú na Gréine by Jackie McKenna (2003)
Wolfe Tone Park, Dublin 1
My first relationship to a sculpture is its location and the memory attached to it. I noticed this bronze cow while I was desperately looking for a place to live, exactly three years ago. Arriving in a new city and country, I lacked landmarks. Having just come back from six months in India, finding a cow peacefully lying in the middle of the city bustle was nothing new to me; when I saw it, I was suddenly in familiar territory. I like the simplicity of this sculpture, the indifference and the tranquillity conveyed by the cow, and the way it melts into the landscape as if it always belonged there.

Astrid Newman, Communications Assistant, Sculpture Dublin

Drop by Eimear Murphy (2017)
Maritime Garden, Dublin Port
I’m not sure that I have a favourite sculpture in Dublin, but sitting firmly in my top three is Eimear Murphy’s Drop. Two words: concrete and comfort. It is a solid but elegant structure and I would recommend, if you’re making the excursion to Dublin Port’s Maritime Garden to see it, that you take a seat in its curvy base. As locations go, it’s not exactly serene, nestled on the edge of a busy port, but there’s something about the weight, simplicity and subtle textures of Drop that feels calm, and certain.