The Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square

Topics: Trafalgar Square, Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper Pages: 8 (1277 words) Published: December 9, 2010
The Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square is very different from the other three – instead of

carrying a grey statue it always surprises one's eye with a contemporary sculptural piece, which

is changed every two years. But the question is – does the contemporary art sculptures fit into the

classical space of Trafalgar Square?

The Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square, built in the north-west corner, was designed by Sir

Charles Barry in 1841. It was intended, that it would hold an equestrian statue of William IV,

however due to insufficient funds the statue was never completed. The plinth stayed empty until

1858, when a statue of Edward Jenner was unveiled. Still, it was removed four years later due

protests by anti-vaccinationists. After that, it was unused for more than a century, and became

In 1999, when the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

(RSA) launched the Fourth Plinth Project, three contemporary sculptures by Mark Wallinger (Ecce

Homo (1999) - a life-sized figure of a man, wearing a loin cloth and a crown of barbed wire, with

his hands tied behind his back, referring to Jesus Christ), Bill Woodrow (Regardless the History

(2000) – a bronze sculpture showing the head of a man crushed over a book, both bound to the

Plinth by the roots of a dead tree) and Rachel Whiteread (Untitled Monument (2001) – a transparent

resin cast of the actual Plinth, standing upside-down on the original) have been commissioned to be

displayed temporarily on the Plinth. Regarding the enormous public attention, the Mayor of London

began the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group (a commission of specialist advisers appointed

to guide the commissions for the Plinth) and since then the Plinth has been used as a location for

exhibiting specially commissioned works by contemporary artists.

After standing empty again for a few years, the Plinth was again open for exhibit in 2005,

when a controversial statue Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn unveiled. This has caused

many discussions, since some were questioning on the shock value of disability, as well as lauded

for its progressive social values. Also, the statue reactivated the discussions about the purpose of

contemporary art in this antique location.

In 2007 Marc Quinn's work was replaced by Thomas Schutte's Model for a Hotel 2007 – a

model of a twenty-one storey hotel from red, yellow and blue coloured glass. It brought a feel of

After two years, the colourful, static sculpture was replaced by presumably most interesting

and negotiable project on the Fourth Plinth - Antony Gormley's One & Other, turning the plinth

into a “living monument”. This involved 2400 people, picked from the public after applying on the

project's website, standing on a plinth for one hour - 24 hours a day for 100 days without a break.

Selected people were allowed to use the Plinth any way they want, do anything they want, including

dancing, music, performing, reading poetry, or even just doing nothing at all, making a raw

representation of both, individuality and the whole of humanity at the same time. The performances

were broadcast live over the internet 24 hours a day. The project also caused a lot of discussions,

since many people did not consider this as an appropriate act of art for the Trafalgar Square, rather

as an act of snobbery.
The current sculpture on the Fourth Plinth is Yinka Shonbare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle. It

was unveiled on 24th of May, 2010. This work of a Anglo-Nigerian artist is a replica of Nelson's

ship, the Victory, inside a large glass bottle stopped with a cork. The artwork marks the preserved

importance of historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square. It is a reminder of the Battle of Trafalgar

and is directly related to Nelson – this is one of the reasons which excludes the piece from the

others exhibited on the Fourth Plinth.

Soon, the turn...
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