London’s Trafalgar Square has turned into an unlikely location for controversial public art projects. Since 1998, the north-west plinth – originally intended for a statue of William IV – has hosted a variety of artworks, from a hotel for pigeons, a giant blue cockerel to a ship in a bottle and a golden boy on a rocking horse. So as you might expect the next two Fourth Plinth commissions for 2018 and 2020 will be been hotly anticipated.
Among the five shortlisted ideas for the prestigious commission is the recreation of Lamassu, a winged bull and protective deity destroyed in 2015 by ISIS made out of recycled Middle Eastern food packaging. The proposal is by Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz who has been working since 2006 on recreating archeological artefacts looted from the Iraq Museum for his The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist project.
‘I’m delighted to see that the shortlisted commissions are not just from the UK but from around the globe, a clear sign that London is open to creativity,’ said Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, of the most international line-up of artists the public art commission has ever had. ‘The Fourth Plinth reflects the best of London in so many ways – it is inventive, pioneering, surprising and a source of delight, discussion and debate for millions of Londoners and visitors from across the world.’
London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture, Justine Simons said the Fourth Plinth, ‘turns everyone into an art critic.’ And we’re sure there will be much debate about the shortlisted proposals that challenge contemporary issues and respond to cultural events. Heather Phillipson’s The End, is a ginormous dollop of cream with a cherry on top being eaten by a fly as a drone circles around relaying footage. Although exceptionally playful, it considers the surveillance and instability of society.
Damian Ortega’s work looks at the monumentality of pubic sculpture with a tower constructed out of a VW van, ladders, oil cans and scaffold: ‘I like to investigate the intelligence of popular knowledge and ordinary engineering,’ said the Mexican artist. In their entry, Raq Media Collective and Huma Bhabha reimagine the power and intention of traditional civic monuments.
We’ll have to wait until March to find out which of the five have won the next two commissions, but in the meantime you can view the five maquettes at the National Gallery’s Annenberg Court. And be sure to check out the current Fourth Plinth work by David Shrigley, that continues to give London a much-needed thumbs up.
Fourth Plinth Commission Shortlist Exhibition is on at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN from 20 January to 26 March 2017.