Back to News

Artist Michael Rakowitz’s design unveiled for Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

Today, London waved goodbye to David Shrigley’s giant thumb and gave a warm welcome to Michael Rakowitz’s new design for the fourth plinth.

The gigantic public artwork is an ongoing tradition for Londoners to enjoy in one of the city’s most central spots.

If you’re not sure what the fourth plinth is or what the first, second or third ones are, let us explain.

What is the fourth plinth?

It’s on the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square, opposite the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. It was originally meant to display an equestrian statue designed by Sir Charles Barry, but it never happened because there wasn’t enough money, so the plinth was left empty. The other plinths are occupied by statues of Henry Havelock, Charles James Napier and Sir Charles Barry.

When did people decide to make use of the fourth one?

In 1998, the RSA commissioned three temporary sculptures for the plinth to try and raise public awareness, provide inspiration for sculptures that the plinth could be used for, and decide what its long-term future was going to be. The works were by Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread and Bill Woodrow. It was such a success that it was decided that the plinth would continue to be used for an ongoing series of temporary artworks by a range of contemporary artists.

Who funds it?

It’s now funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England.

Which works might I be familiar with?

Yinka Shoribare created a giant ship in a bottle, whilst many will remember Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue cockerel. Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse was a skeletal horse with a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange attached to its leg. Antony Gormley’s 2009 commission, One & Other, was one of the most unusual; every hour, 24 hours a day for 100 days, different people stood on the Fourth Plinth, with 24,000 taking part over that time.

Londoners will remember the most recent commission by David Shrigley with affection: a giant thumbs up entitled Really Good, passing on mischievous optimism to passers-by.

What’s the new commission?

Michael Rakowitz’s The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is a recreation of a statue destroyed by ISIS in 2015, with something of a twist – it’s been rebuilt from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans. These are intended to symbolise one of the great Iraqi industries, destroyed by war. It will stay on the plinth until March 2020, after which time Heather Phillipson’s THE END will be installed. Things stay political – it’s a giant whirl of cream topped with a cherry, a fly and a drone that will film Trafalgar Square from its vantage point.


Article by Jessie Thompson, The Evening Standard, London, UK

Posted in: News on March 28, 2018 by...