Elmgreen and Dragset, Bob and Roberta Smith, Marc Quinn, Jeremy Deller and Grayson Perry. ©UltraVie
The Institute of Contemporary Art’s latest exhibition, Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument, brings together the full set of 21 commissioned maquettes made by some of the most celebrated current artists, such as Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, Elmgreen and Dragset, amongst others. It highlights the history of the Fourth Plinth, which, originally designed for an equestrian statue as part of Sir Charles Barry’s plan, remained empty for years, while exploring the development of the eponymous programme.
The Mayor of London’s Fourth Plinth Programme has been presenting world-class contemporary artworks on the empty plinth on Trafalgar Square for over 13 years. The programme has taken many twists and turns, generated controversy, and accumulated hundreds of thousands of followers, both nationally and internationally.
The first three works in the programme were commissioned by the RSA, one of which was Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo, a life-size figure of Christ before his crucifixion, shown without the traditional beard.
The first round of the Mayor of London commissioning for the programme saw, among others, Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant, in 2005, which explores representations of beauty and the human form in public space – it was recently remade in an even more monumental scale for the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
The second round, in 2008, consisted of works from Tracey Emin, Something for the Future, Anish Kapoor, Model for the Fourth Plinth, and Antony Gormley’s famous One & Other, for which he invited selected members of the public to spend an hour on the plinth, one by one, for 24 hours a day over 100 days.
For the third round of the Mayor of London commissioning, Elmgreen and Dragset created Powerless Structures, Fig. 101, a sculpture representing a child on a rocking horse, contrasting with the other Trafalgar Square statues of victorious men on horses. Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock on the other hand is a sculpture of a giant blue farmyard cockerel, which playfully represents the national symbol of France within a square that celebrates the British victory over the French.
The exhibition allows each viewer to admire the maquettes individually as well as part of a remarkable group, and discover selected archival materials from the RSA and the Mayor of London’s offices at City Hall.