Art gallery toilets in a lather over Meekyoung Shin's soap sculptures

By Sarah Jackson | 04 September 2013

Installation preview: Toilet Works, various venues, until October 2013

Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield© Jim Varney G
Public toilets are usually the last place you expect to find art, but for Korean artist Meekyoung Shin it’s the perfect place for her latest work.

Toilet Project is a UK-wide public art programme that displays her soap statuettes in - you guessed it - public toilets. At the start of the project, 16 galleries and museums across the UK have had soap statuettes installed in their public facilities. However, now only 15 display the unusual hand washers.

The Korean Cultural Centre UK has removed the statue of Buddha that sat in the toilets of FACT (the Foundation of Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool after receiving complaints from visitors.

The presence of a religious icon of any sort in the toilets has apparently caused some visitors offence – an unexpected development for the organisers. The objections suggest that the setting of an artwork can be as important to a piece as its form.

The soap statuettes, made from palm oil-free vegetarian soap, are cast in the style of both Eastern and Western reliefs. As visitors wash their hands using the statues, they dissolve and disintegrate in a process that mirrors the weathering of statues exposed to the ravages of the weather and time.

Shin is known for her use of soap as an artistic medium. One of her larger scale works saw her replace the missing bronze sculpture of the Duke of Cumberland at Cavendish Square with one of soap. Despite being in place for a year, the statue still stands – perhaps soap is tougher than we thought.

From November 2013 the statues will be removed from the bathrooms and will form part of Shin’s solo show, Translation Museum, The Epic Archive (working title) at the Korean Cultural Centre UK. The exhibition will allow visitors to see how the statues have weathered over time and view Shin’s other works.

You can view the statues at the following venues:

CASS Sculpture Foundation (Chichester)
Centre of Contemporary Art (Glasgow)
Craft Study Centre (Farnham)
Edinburgh International Festival (Edinburgh)
Grundy Art Gallery (Blackpool)
The Holburne Museum (Bath)
IKON Gallery (Birmingham)
Korean Cultural Centre UK (London)
Lakeside Art Centre (Nottingham)
Leach Pottery (St. Ives)
The National Centre for Craft and Design (Lincolnshire)
Oriental Museum (Durham)
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum (Bournemouth)
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh)
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Wakefield)


Follow the Korean Cultural Centre UK on Twitter @KCCUK.

More pictures:


Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Craft Study Centre, Farnham
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Craft Study Centre, Farnham
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at IKON Gallery, Birmingham
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at IKON Gallery, Birmingham
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Oriental Museum, Durham
Meekyoung Shin, Toilet Project at Oriental Museum, Durham
You might also enjoy:

Soap sculpture cleans up in Bath as Meekyoung Shin toilet tour visits the Holburne

Fire and engines: Roger Hiorns sends naked men into the Hepworth Wakefield's Calder

Traditionalists look away: Gillian Wearing unveils subjects for Birmingham Family sculpture

Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.
Latest comment: >Make a comment
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.
    Related listings (109)
    See all related listings »
    Related resources (112)
    See all related resources »