Six of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists have been shortlisted to propose a new artwork for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, England. This year’s winning artist will have their work on display during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Over the past four years the ‘empty’ fourth plinth in the Northwest corner of Trafalgar Square has been home to some of the world’s most innovative artworks. The Plinth was originally designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1841 to display an equestrian statue, however due to insufficient funds the statue was never completed. In 1998 – over one hundred and fifty years later – the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) commissioned three contemporary sculptures by Mark Wallinger, Bill Woodrow and Rachel Whiteread to be displayed temporarily on the Plinth.
Following the enormous public interest generated by these commissions, the Mayor of London began the Fourth Plinth Commission to continue this tradition and build on its success.
The maquettes of this year's shortlisted artists’ ideas can be seen in an exciting interactive exhibition in the lobby of St Martin-in-the-Field at Trafalgar Square. Visitors to the exhibition can take a look at the actual models, hear what the artists think about their ideas as well as hearing what supporters of the program such as Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and Ekow Eshun, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London think about the program.
The exhibition will be on display until October 31, 2010. On Thursday, September 16 from 6 to 8 pm, the exhibition hosts an artists panel discussion. Please RSVP via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are the six shortlisted 2010 entries:
Sikandar replicates the statue of Field Marshal, Sir George White (1835 – 1912) that stands in Portland Place and transforms it into a fetish object. The sculpture will be embellished with horse-brasses, charms, medals, sabres, ex-votos, jewels, Bactrian treasure and Hellenistic masks, creating layers of material and meaning with multiple possible readings.
Sikandar, translates as Alexander in Urdu; Khandahar being one of the cities Alexander the Great named after himself. Commanders to this day measure themselves against him, and at this moment somewhere in Afghanistan, a member of our troops will be reading his histories. Alexander's military empire was short-lived, but his Hellenic cultural influence lasted centuries.
The work will bring a social and historic focus to the Square, contributing to its role as a place of dissent and celebration. The proposal is not an anti-military critique. It is an investigation into the idea of the Hero and the problematic and changing nature of heroism.
It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back is elevated above the Plinth and represents a fictional mountainscape. It is ‘specific in its dramatically modelled detail’ and if viewed from above reveals the flipped and reversed shape of Britain. From below, the map is the right way around and more familiar. The juxtaposition of different views shifts the observer’s perception of the mountain from majestic and generic landscape to territorial space.
Historically mountains represent monumentality, conquest, glory, ownership. In turn, the sentiments frequently attached to landscapes have often served as reminders of our more fragile, human, moral and mortal positions in the grandest considerations of the sublime.
Untitled (ATM/Organ) consists of installing an automated teller machine (ATM) in the Fourth Plinth, connected to a functioning pipe organ which will produce sound by driving pressurised air through pipes selected via the ATM machine keyboard.
Each time customers press the ATM keyboard to access bank accounts worldwide to make cash withdrawals, credit card cash advances, account balance inquiries and so on, it will trigger the pipe organ to produce a range of notes and chords at varying degrees of loudness which will reverberate throughout Trafalgar Square.
In this portrayal of a boy astride his rocking horse, a child has been elevated to the status of a historical hero, though there is not yet a history to commemorate – only a future to hope for. Elmgreen & Dragset’s work proposes a paraphrase of a traditional war monument beyond a dualistic worldview predicated on either victory or defeat. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 celebrates the heroism of growing up. It is a visual statement celebrating expectation and change rather than glorifying the past.
The sculpture, a larger than life cockerel in ultramarine blue communicates on different levels. First of all is the consideration of the formal aspect of its placement: the mostly grey architecture of Trafalgar Square would receive an unexpectedly strong colour accentuation, the size and colour of the animal making the whole situation surreal or simply unusual. The cockerel is also a symbol for regeneration, awakening and strength and finally, the work refers, in an ironic way, to male-defined British society and thoughts about biological determinism.
The Battenberg cake was invented on the advent of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter – Princess Victoria of Hesse – to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. As such, the pink and yellow cake is a humble commemoration of the Victorian era and a link with a British past that has slowly crumbled. Yet this past still influences contemporary life, not least in our cities where we are surrounded by Victorian public sculpture. Increased to gigantic proportion, fashioned from a selection of traditionally made household bricks and placed on a plinth alongside other Victorian statues in Trafalgar Square, the cake becomes a wry monument to monumentality. It highlights a much-changed contemporary Britain while gently questioning the role of contemporary art in today’s late capitalist society where our perception of culture is as a consumer experience.
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