The Seven Noses of Soho are one of Soho’s oddities – a secret hidden in plain sight. If you don’t know they’re there, you could visit Soho 100 times and never see them. Once you know, you start spotting them everywhere.
The first time I read about the seven noses, I was sceptical…
Noses? On some of Soho’s most distinguished buildings? There’s no way I would have missed that.
Incorrect. The noses are there for you (and me) to see – if you know where to look.
What Are the Seven Noses of Soho?
The noses are an artistic installation created by Rick Buckley in 1997. They’re actually plaster of Paris reproductions of the artist’s own nose, and there used to be a lot more of them but now only a select few survive.
Why Were They Made?
You’d have to suffer from a distinct lack of curiosity if you didn’t wonder why Buckley felt driven to create massive replicas of his nose and go on a spree sticking them onto buildings in the centre.
To understand the installation of the noses, you first have to understand the increased public scrutiny the public were undergoing in the late 90s, thanks to the introduction of CCTV cameras.
The 1993 Bishopsgate bombing in particular set off the installation of a “Ring of Steel” around the City of London – a trend that expanded throughout the rest of the capital.
Buckley felt that the intrusive CCTV cameras were sticking their nose into peoples’ business. It was a case of a nose for a nose, so to speak.
He was inspired by the Situationists – a group of mid-century avant garde artists who created art to critique the corrupting influences of capitalism.
Looking back on this now, when we’ve come to accept the intrusion of our privacy as a matter of course, it’s interesting to see the furore the growing CCTV presence caused.
The Legends of the Seven Noses
Buckley didn’t say anything about the noses for a long time, so they became the subject of many an urban legend. People claimed that the nose inside the Admiralty Arch was created to mock Napoleon. Another legend had it that same Admiralty Arch nose was actually a spare for the Nelson nose on Trafalgar Square.
Perhaps the most famous legend of all was that if you found all seven of the noses in Soho and removed them (please, don’t), you would be the recipient of unbounded wealth.
Luckily no one ever gave that a really good try… not to mention that there are only four of the Buckley noses remaining in Soho itself – plus another on Meard Street, which isn’t one of the originals and is thought to have been created by a different artist.
It was only in 2011 when Buckley owned up to creating the noses, that he explained their real meaning.
By the time he’d owned up to installing the noses across central London, many of them had already been removed by the building owners – but a number still remain in and around Soho, hence the Seven Noses of Soho moniker.
Seven Noses of Soho Map
I’ll warn you… there are only six as the seventh seems to have disappeared in recent years.
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