Oscar Wilde may already have a monument in Dublin, where a likeness of the Irish writer reclines on a boulder, but despite having lived in New York City for a year of his life, Wilde doesn’t currently have such an honor in Manhattan. That will change this September, when the artist duo McDermott & McGough will unveil the Oscar Wilde Temple, a public installation at the Church of the Village in New York’s West Village neighborhood. Made with support from the church and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City, and organized by Alison Gingeras, the work will be on view from September 11 to December 2, after which it will travel to London, where it will be shown at the Studio Voltaire gallery.
As with many works by McDermott & McGough, the temple will combine various strands of history as a way of reflecting on homophobia. Wilde, who was gay, was at one point imprisoned after a Scottish marquess discovered that the writer was in a relationship with his son. (Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor after losing a libel case waged against the marquess.) Forced to repress his homosexuality for the majority of his life, Wilde is presented in McDermott & McGough’s piece as a martyr of sorts—a soul who suffered because of what he believed and who he was.
A four-foot-tall statue of Wilde will be at the center of the installation, which will be staged in the church’s Russell Chapel. It will be surrounded by paintings of Wilde’s arrest and imprisonment, as well as the two years of hard labor that followed, and portraits of various victims of homophobia and transphobia, from Alan Turing to Brandon Teena, a transgender boy from Nebraska who was raped and murdered.
David McDermott, one half of the artist duo, said in a statement, “The Temple is to be a place free of religious doctrine, honoring a watershed historical figure who pioneered the long struggle for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender peoples—a struggle that has intersected with our nation’s larger effort to acknowledge, accept, embrace, and draw strength from the profound diversity that makes society stronger and enriches the lives of all people.”
In addition to being open to the public for viewing the work, the chapel can be booked for weddings and other celebrations, with the proceeds from those events going to the LGBT Center’s programs that support LGBTQ children at risk of losing their homes.