What is the Fourth Plinth in London?

If you go to Trafalgar Square in the centre of London you’ll see the instantly recognisable Nelson’s Column, the magnificent 4 lions, the fountains and the National Gallery. You may not notice that there are 4 giant plinths, 3 of which are topped by statues of the classic generals on horseback variety. 

However, there is one empty one in the north-west corner. I say empty but for the last 7 years, it has hosted a wonderful variety of innovative artworks. We’ve had a golden boy on a rocking horse, Nelson’s ship in a bottle and a series which was open to the public to pitch for one hour on the plinth doing anything (legal) they liked and this ran every hour for 100 days! It was an amazing outpouring of public expression but I did feel sorry for the folk who were given a wet 2am slot. It was streamed live so at least they were seen virtually even if only close friends and family battled in to see them live…

Golden boy and rocking horse

Nelson’s ship in a bottle looking towards Nelson’s Column

The 4th plinth was supposed to be home to a statue of William 1V but funds ran out and it has remained empty tho’ the subject of much debate. As South Africa House runs along the east side of the square and was the site of much anti-apartheid campaigning, a statue of Nelson Mandela has long been a favourite choice for a long-term resident. Or perhaps Queen Elizabeth 2nd?

Our current resident is a giant, 4.72 metre high, blue cockerel (rooster) and that will be in place, dividing opinion, for 18 months in all. I love its vibrancy and boldness but have no idea why the artist chose a cockerel!

Planning is underway for the next 2 pieces which will be unveiled in 2015 and 2106 and the decision is due early 2014. I went to the exhibition of the choices so have a look and see what you think:

Number 1 Marcus Coates ‘Unmade Monument’

Number 2 Hans Haacke ‘Gift Horse’

Number 3 Liliane Lijn ‘The Dance’ (these move in shifting shapes)

Number 4 David Shrigley ‘Really Good’

Number 5 Ugo Rondinone ‘Moon Mask’

Number 6 Mark Leckey ‘ Larger Squat Afar’

My choices? First pick is The Dance and second is Really Good. Sadly it’s not a public vote so let’s see what happens when Boris Johnson announces the winners.

I’ll be away for several weeks now but back in the spring to bring you more insights into life in London.

Happy new year!

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