Fourth Plinth artists announced
Visit Trafalgar Square in London and you’ll be greeted by a blue cockerel. Still. Poised. Optimistic. Next year it will have vanished, replaced by a skeletal horse. Historic. Sardonic. Critical. In 2016, it too will disappear and in its place will come a ten-metre high hand with its thumb raised. Positive. Hopeful. Cyclical.
The Fourth Plinth, which was originally erected to hold a statue of William IV, King of Great Britain between 1830 and 1837, has been a truly remarkable space for public works of art, as exemplified by current (Katharina Fritsch) and future examples (Hans Haacke and David Shrigley).
Good job then that funds were unavailable for the statue some 150 years ago, otherwise we, the public, would have another idolised image of aristocracy to admire or abhor. These temporary works at least offer with their yearly tenure a different discourse, and love them or hate them; change is welcome, even if it is just artistic.
Quoted by the Guardian, the wry Shrigley admits that it is a struggle, for him and others to see how a thumb – entitled Really Good – can change things for the better, but adds that if you don’t believe that things can improve, then nothing ultimately matters.
“As an artist you have to feel your art makes the world a better place and you have to believe that quite sincerely, otherwise why would you make it?” he said.
“It’s a paradox. On the one hand it is kind of ridiculous to suggest that this giant sculpture will bring an upturn in the economy. At the same time, maybe it isn’t. I mean it lightheartedly, satirically, sarcastically maybe – but I kind of believe it as well.”
It stirs up an interesting debate about how you define success, and the sharp dichotomy of the capital, which is one of the most vibrant and cultural cities in the world and home to one of the busiest and most successful financial districts.
Imagine London without theatres, art galleries, concert halls, the Greater London Authority. Miserable, isn’t it? The Fourth Plinth is just one of the many ways that the city’s powerbrokers ensure that the capital remains ‘a hotbed for creativity and innovation’.
Long may this continue because without it, establishing something permanent will confirm the prevailing consensus among the rich and powerful that they have a monopoly on politics, on intellectual discourse and on history. Art helps challenge that orthodoxy, serving as a timeless reminder that more can be done. Things can be better and don’t forget that.
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