Sunday, 21 February 2016

Who nose?

There is almost always something unusual to see in London, if you are on foot, are reasonably observant, and are in the right mood. Sometimes, the things worth seeing are large and obvious, like a film shoot (which always makes me childishly excited) or a statue; other times, the things are small, like an unobtrusive sign pointing towards a "Roman Bath" (as may be seen on Surrey Street), or a brass plaque set into a wall or pavement. Regular readers may already have an idea that I enjoy spotting blue (and other coloured) plaques, commemorating the home or workplace of famous people from history.

On Admiralty Arch, between The Mall and Trafalgar Square, is a particularly small object of interest, and it's one that is often overlooked by passers by. Attached to a wall on the northernmost arch is the nose you can see above. It looks as if it is made of bronze, but I understand that it is made of plaster of Paris and polymer, and it is attached to the wall about eight feet from the ground. I cannot recall how or when I first became aware of it; I might have read something somewhere and gone looking for it, or I might have just spotted it, as a slightly incongruous protuberance on a large public building and landmark.

However I came to find it, I like that it is there. Apparently, it was placed there in 1997, along with around 34 others in various locations around the city, by artist Rick Buckley ( as part of a campaign against the "Big Brother" society. According to an Evening Standard article in 2011, approximately ten of Buckley's noses remain, including in front of Quo Vadis, a restaurant and private club in Soho, and somewhere outside St Pancras Station.

An odd thing about the noses, which only now occurs to me, is that - possibly because they are of such a mundane object, the human nose - one may be aware of them, but then forget about them when they are out of sight. I have a vague feeling that I have seen the St Pancras Nose which, from the photos I have seen on the web, appears to be a clay red colour, to blend in with the bricks to which it is attached, but I am not absolutely certain. There's something pleasing, however, about a work of art that retains a slightly covert character; although they are not hidden, you will only find them if you seek them out, or discover them by accident, and either way, if you do come across one, I challenge you not to raise a smile.

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