From 1841 until 1999 the Fourth Plinth in the north-west of Trafalgar Square, in central London was empty. But since 1999 it has been the location for contemporary art works, commissioned specially from leading artists, which are housed on the plinth for a year or two each.
Thomas Schütte’s sculpture Model for a Hotel 2007, unveiled in November last year, is currently on the Fourth Plinth, and it's really, really terrible. Schutte was going to have a very hard time following Marc Quinn's sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant which it replaced. Quinn's portrait of artist, activist and mother Alison Lapper when she was 8½ months pregnant was carved out of one block of white marble and stood 3.55 metres high.
Physically disabled, naked and pregnant the sculpture generated a heady mix of tabloid disgust and critical acclaim. A fitting tribute to what is arguably the most important public art site in the UK.
Alison Lapper Pregnant was the first new commission for the Fourth Plinth under the auspices of the Mayor of London’s Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group and it was tremendously successful, capturing the public interest as well as global media attention.
In stark contrast Schutte's piece has captured little more than pigeon droppings and is a terrible waste of the opportunity that such a public and auspicious space provides really good art and artists.
So with that in mind I'm campaigning for a suitable replacement.
A shortlist of six artists for the next work to go on the Fourth Plinth was announced in 28 November 2007, and their proposals have been unveiled.
Jeremey Deller's The Spoils of War (Memorial of an unknown civilian), the remains of a vehicle that has been destroyed in an attack on civilians in Iraq, is pure genius. Talking about the piece Deller said, 'The presentation of the spoils of war to a curious public dates back at least to the Roman Empire. My idea for the fourth plinth performs a similar role’.
Original, timely and with real moral purpose The Spoils of War must win over the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group. Like Quinn's Alison Lapper, it will generate real interest and engagement in one of the most important public issues of our time: the UK's participation in the war in Iraq.
The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Programme aims to get people thinking about the place of art in the public realm. As part of its efforts it has launched a public consultation about the future works to be selected for the Fourth Plinth and which one of the six proposals they prefer and why?
I'll be making my views known and hope others will too.
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