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The Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square

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.

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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 epresentation 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 for a new art piece will come, so at the moment six more commissions for the Plinth are being considered. All six of them were exhibited in St-Martin-in-the-Field gallery near the Trafalgar Square until the end of October. The first one is Battenberg by Brian Griffith. The Pink and yellow decorated cake was nvented especially for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter – Princess Victoria of Hesse – to Prince Louis of Battenberg wedding anniversary in 1884.The sculpture made of handmade bricks is reminiscent of this little piece of history. Sikandar by Hew Locke echoes the British Army General, Sir George White, a monument standing in Portland Place. “Sikandar” translates as Alexander in Urdu. A hybrid between the name of a famous ancient conqueror and the image of the British Army General, modernized, studded with medals, jewellery, chains, materials, according to the creator, symbolizes the hero ant the eroic concept of the evolution of today’s world. It’s never too late and you can’t go back – this it the name of the third piece by Mariele Neudecker, depicting mountains. From ancient times mountains symbolize monumentality, strength, eternity and glory. Looking from below the sculpture, the mountain line forms a map of Britain, so it perception of the work may easily switch from dimensional landscape to territorial The blue Hahn / Cock by a German artist Katharina Fritsch symbolizes the awakening, strength and renovation. This sculpture would easily catch one’s eye between the grey statues of theTrafalgar Square – the surrealism of its huge size and ultramarine colouring is inevitable. Allora and Calzadilla’s work Untitled (ATM/Organ) is actually a combination between an automated teller machine (ATM), installed in the Plinth, connected to a pipe organ on top of it. It will produce sound by driving pressurised air through pipes selected while pressing the ATM machine keyboard. The last sculpture is Powerless Structures, by the authors Elmgreen & Dragset.Gold coloured boy rocking on a particular childhood symbol – a rocking horse – might symbolize the value of rowth and maturity, at the same time showing a future hero, “the heroism of growing up”. So for now the dilemma is – the blue rooster, an equestrian decorated with medals, sequins and chains, a sound-producing ATM organ, a golden boy, rocking on a toy horse, a brick cake or a floating mountain-scape – which of these works will be the next one in queue for the Fourth Plinth? Finally, seeing these new brave, exceptional and innovative proposals it is very likely that these six candidates will cause as much arguments as all of the other of their predecessors. It is still ften discussed if the Fourth Plinth is an appropriate location for contemporary art pieces, but since the plinth itself has a meaning of a base for a sculpture that is excluded from the surrounding and defines it as art, once again it leads to the eternal questioning of what is art itself, or if we should interpretate this enviroment as a for one-art-kind-only space, but residents and guests of London seem to enjoy the Fourth Plinth a lot more than all the grey.Fourth Plinth http://www. london. gov. uk/fourthplinth/ Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square – Telegraph http:// ww. telegraph. co. uk/culture/4838343/Antony-Gormleys-Fourth-Plinth-Trafalgar- Trafalgar Square – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/ Trafalgar_Square#Fourth_plinth Archinect : Discussion Forum : Culture : The Fourth Plinth (Stop Frame Animation) Day 1 http://www. archinect. com/forum/threads. php? id=90208_0_42_100_C157 Alison Lapper – The Student Room http://www. thestudentroom. co. uk/ showthread. php? p=2723396;highlight=fourth%20plinth BBC News – Trafalgar Square fourth plinth candidates unveiled http://www. bbc. co. uk/ news/uk-england-london-11022665