A former Turner Prize winner is to go head to head with this year’s favourite to create the latest work to be displayed on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square.
The Fourth Plinth Commissions have attracted submissions from some of the most established British and international artists, and the plinth is currently occupied by a giant blue cockerel.
The six shortlisted sculptures for the next two commissions were unveiled in central London today and include gyrating cones, a giant aluminium mask and the replica of a Yorkshire rock formation.
Mark Leckey, who won the Turner Prize in 2008, is among the artists competing, as is David Shrigley, who is the bookies' favourite to win the contemporary art prize this year. Turner Prize winners to display work on the Fourth Plinth in the past include Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread.
Ekow Eshun, the chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: "You try and find some of the most important artists working in Britain and internationally for the plinth. The fact we have had Turner Prize winners involved is a reflection of that."
Shrigley’s proposed work for the Fourth Plinth is titled Really Good and is the bronze cast of a huge hand doing a thumbs-up, in the trademark style of an artist known for his humour.
It is designed to make Trafalgar Square, the UK and the world "a better place. And it would be quite a cost-effective way of doing it," the artist said, adding it would be a "really big deal" to display his work in such a notable space.
"The meaning is quite oblique. I don’t want my work to be super readable, but it is a satire on the politics of civic sculpture," he said.
The artist, who was born in Macclesfield and lives in Glasgow, added that the sculpture, with its thumb stretching 10-foot high, "will become a self-fulfilling prophecy; that things considered bad, such as the economy, the weather and society, will benefit from a change of consensus towards positivity".
Mr Eshun said: "David Shrigley is having a very good year, but it's not like he has come out of nowhere. A successful artist can make any complex idea look simple and that’s what he does. He makes a complex idea simple and amusing."
The artist himself could not put his finger on why everything has come together for him in the past 12 months.
"I'm now 45," he said. "Maybe that’s the age of maturity for an artist. You accept all these things and try and enjoy them."
Leckey's work, called Larger Squat Afar, is an amalgam of elements found in other statues in the space, and the name itself is an anagram of Trafalgar Square.
British artist Marcus Coates presented a work replicating a stone outcrop in Yorkshire, Germany’s Hans Haacke is a skeleton of a horse with a ribbon on its leg showing the live ticker from the London Stock Exchange while Ugo Rondinone from Switzerland’s work is a huge "moon" mask in aluminium.
Liliane Lijn, an American working in London, has created The Dance, kinetic cone sculptures that would be the first moving pieces to make the plinth should her proposal be successful. Ms Lijn said: "After 50 years of kinetic sculpture it was about time we had something moving on the plinth."
Mr Eshun said: "This reflects the continuing ambitions for the Fourth Plinth. We feel we have established one of the most significant international public art commissions in the world.
"All the artists here have responded in different and unique ways and the singular depth from their careers. We’re very proud of the work here."
The public will now be able to respond to the work and the submissions will be taken into account by the Commission Group. On the last consultation there were about 17,000 responses from the public. The first sculpture will go up in 2015 and the second 18 months later.
Mr Eshun said: "These six artists responded with real depth, imagination and insight. It is a very difficult commission. It is a public space, a busy space, and now it has a history of previous commissions. So each artist has to respond to the past and look to the future."