St Pancras’ enormous smug hugging couple statue: the new(ish) frieze
Sometimes I go for a bit of a wander on my lunch break. On the shifts I do ‘lunch’ is something of an elastic concept, but even if it’s 6pm it’s a wise and good thing to get out of the building from time to time.
Yesterday my feet took me to St Pancras station, which is lovely once you escape the shops and the people to the often deserted upper level. As well for its spectacular roof and draughty champagne bar, St Pancras is known for two statues. The first is a lovely, tasteful, understated one of Sir John Betjeman, who was instrumental in the campaign to save the station from the fate that befell nearby Euston.
The second is this oversized monstrosity, of a bloke with a backpack embracing his shapely, amazonian lover. It’s the Be Here Now of station statues, and not in a good way.
But something good has happened. The artist has added a frieze around the base of the statue, which contains some beautiful, if surreal and nightmarish, sculpted images. These include subterranean trains, masses of almost Hogarthian commuters, an imagined image of St Pancras during wartime, a miserable homeless person (and her even more miserable dog), and what appears to be Michael Stipe out of REM being chatted up by a big-arsed hooker. It basically seems to be saying “please don’t take the tube – it’s like Dante’s inferno down there”. Maybe the artist wished to encourage more people arriving in the city to explore by foot, bike or bus. Either way, it’s wonderful stuff*.
* Naturally, the Daily Mail hated it