Love it or loathe it, the competition to place a bizarre and often confrontational piece of art on the 'Fourth Plinth' beneath the gaze of Admiral Lord Nelson on London’s Trafalgar Square has become a staple of the British art calendar.
Much like the Turner Prize it produces an eclectic shortlist, an interesting winner and much public and newspaper debate. It also delivers, in the words of its passionate supporter, London Mayor Boris Johnson, "challenging artwork amidst the historic surroundings of Trafalgar Square."
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist, Kate MacGarry, London and Workplace, Gateshead
This year one of the strongest shortlists since its inception in 1998 sees six artists vie for two spots on the plinth in 2015 and 2016.
Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey joins recent Turner shortlister David Shrigley and shamanic nature lover Marcus Coates with a trio of proposals that range from the cerebral to the flippant to the majestic.
They are accompanied by former beatnik-surrealist Liliane Lijn, the German New York based veteran of public sculpture and intervention Hans Haacke and the mixed media proponent of fantasy and desire Ugo Rondinone.
Leckey’s proposal is to make an amalgamation of the other statues that occupy the square with a complex creature that absorbs the statues of James II, Admiral Jellicoe, the water fountain, and the Fourth Plinth itself.
Shrigley’s is typical comical; taking the form of a large black hand with extra-large thumb that makes a jaunty thumbs-up sign. Coates has taken a Yorkshire landmark, the Eagle Rock at Brimham Rocks, and replicated it in all its granite anthropomorphic glory.
Liliane Lijn proposes a trademark moving sculpture of two conical metal towers and veteran German sculptor Hans Haacke has created a skeletal, riderless horse that will display the live ticker of the London Stock Exchange on an electric ribbon tied to its leg.
The final proposal comes from Ugo Rondinone who has submitted a large mask that will cast its ghost-like stare across the square.
Whoever wins the contest will create what Boris Johns on describes as a “delicious juxtaposition that gets people talking and debating.”
Whether or not it will achieve his stated aim of “underpinning London’s reputation as a great world city for culture” is open to question, but the Fourth Plinth remains a high profile and publicly provocative contemporary art prize.
The maquettes of the proposed works are on display at St Martin-in-the-Fields from September 25 – November 17 2013. The two selected artists will be announced by the Mayor of London in early 2014, and their works will be unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Visitors to the shortlist exhibition will be invited to post their comments. You can post your commenst at the Fourth Plinth website from September 25
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist and Cabinet Gallery, London
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist and Riflemaker, London
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles Gallery, London
© James O Jenkins Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
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