From Beckham to Lapper, the ever-changing cast
Thursday 07 August 2008
The fourth plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square was designed by Sir Charles Barry, who also the architect of the Palace of Westminster, situated at the opposite end of Whitehall from the square.
Built in 1841, the plinth was originally meant for an equestrian statue of William IV. However, after it emerged that insufficient funds were available for the plan, the plinth remained empty and ever since the various authorities have remained undecided on which military hero or monarch should be erected atop the plinth.
Popularly known as the “empty plinth”, it was only put to use in 1998, when the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) commissioned a series of three works to be temporarily displayed on the plinth.
Tony Blair’s government asked Sir John Mortimer to set up an independent committee which unanimously recommended that the plinth should continue to be used for an series of temporary works of art.
In 1999, responsibility for Trafalgar Square was transferred to the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, and in the same year the RSA created the Fourth Plinth Project, which oversees a rotation of modern artworks showcased on the plinth for up to two years. The first three of these were Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo; Bill Woodrow’s Regardless of History and Rachel Whiteread’s Monument. Marc Quinn’s sculpture, Alison Lapper Pregnant, occupied the plinth from 2005 until 2007. Currently on the plinth is Thomas Schütte’s sculpture, Model for a Hotel 2007, built of specially engineered glass in yellow, red and blue. It has been announced that the next two artists to be exhibited on the plinth will be Antony Gormley and Yinka Shonibare.
The empty plinth has also been subjected to a number of publicity stunts. During the 2002 World Cup, Madame Tussauds placed on it a model of the England midfielder David Beckham, and Channel 4 at one point erected its own logo on the plinth.
In 2003, a serious campaign was launched by Wendy Woods, the widow of the anti-apartheid journalist Donald Woods, with the aim of raising up to £400,000 to pay for a 9ft statue of Nelson Mandela by Ian Walters. The idea had added poignancy because the venue is in the shadow of South Africa House, home of the South African High Commission in London.
Were the Queen’s statue eventually to go on the empty plinth, it would be near that of her great-great-great-great uncle George IV on the north-east plinth.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
Akram Khan: Choreographer says dance is 'as important as maths and being a doctor'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up