The Londoner: Wollstonecraft outrage ‘shows it’s a triumph’

The chairwoman of the project which commissioned Maggi Hambling’s A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft says she’s still “processing” her feelings following its unveiling, as a crowdfunder for an alternative sculpture gets going.

Bee Rowlatt told The Londoner: “I’ve noticed a big difference in people’s response depending on whether they see the sculpture in real life, or just outraged close-ups in the media. The experience of hanging out and seeing groups of people standing around talking on Newington Green is very different from all the online hatred.”

Hambling’s £143,000 design, which depicts female forms twisting together as one silver mass to hold up a figure of a nude “everywoman”, has been criticised by commentators.

But art historian Bendor Grosvenor says the outrage is a sign the statue is a triumph.

He told the Londoner: "If people want to put up another statue on a ‘more the merrier’ basis that’s great. But doing so to create a rival to the Hambling statue is a little petulant. The proposed design for the new statue - a quill pen and a pile of books to show that Wollstonecraft was a writer - seems unnecessarily obvious and reactionary.

“Any clamour for a second statue simply demonstrates the success of the first; more people are talking about Wollstonecraft than at any time since the 19th Century.”

“The more derided a work of art when first exhibited, the more celebrated it will become,” he wrote in The Art Newspaper. “People saw only ‘silver tits’ and ‘bouffant pubes’ ... what I like about Hambling’s figure is that it is nude, but not erotic.”

The group crowdfunding for an alternative statue by artist Martin Jennings have raised just two per cent of its £154,000 target.

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