Gormley's human exhibit wins battle of Trafalgar

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Thousands of members of the public will occupy Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth 24 hours a day in an art work by Turner Prize winner Antony Gormley.

Gormley was announced today, along with Yinka Shonibara, as the winning artists of the next two commissions for the fourth plinth.

Gormley's proposal One And Other is that the plinth is occupied for 100 consecutive days, 24 hours a day, by members of the public who have volunteered to stand on it for an hour at a time.

Over this period 2,400 people will be able to participate.

Gormley said: "Through elevation on to the plinth and removal from common ground, the body becomes a metaphor, a symbol and allows us to reflect on the diversity, vulnerability and particularity of the individual in contemporary society."

The project will enter its development phase during which delivery and project management details will be finalised.

Shonibara's proposal Nelson's Ship In A Bottle is a replica of Nelson's ship HMS Victory in a giant glass bottle with sails made of patterned textiles commonly associated with Africa and bought from London's Brixton Market.

Shonibara said his piece would reflect multiculturalism in London continuing: "For me it's a celebration of London's immense ethnic wealth, giving expression to and honouring the many cultures and ethnicities that are still breathing precious wind into the sails of the UK."

London Mayor Boris Johnson was at City Hall today to unveil the winning works chosen from a six-strong shortlist.

One of Johnson's senior advisers, James McGrath, has quit after apparently remarking that Caribbean immigrants should go home if they do not like London.

The Mayor has said that Mr McGrath was quoted out of context, but that he would only provide "ammunition" if he remained in his job.

Asked what he thought about Mr McGrath's reported comments, Shonibara said that no "sensible" person would agree with such a comment. He added: "I'm not aware of the full details of it."

Mr Johnson left shortly after making the announcement.

He said: "It was obviously a tough decision - all of the short-listed proposals had their own merits.

"But I am very excited about the prospect of real people standing on the plinth in one of the great public squares of the world and I think it is an incredible idea to have a modern depiction of Nelson's boat that will be gazed upon by a statue of the great Admiral himself."

Mr Johnson said it would be an honour for him to stand on the plinth but said he thought his chances of being "lucky enough" to be selected were very small.

Gormley said that the initial idea of his artwork lasting for a year had been shown to be too long and he wanted to preserve its "conceptual integrity."

He said it would represent the distribution of people in the British Isles.

Of the idea of the London mayor being on the plinth, Gormley said: "The idea of Boris not having anything to say and simply standing there and actually looking at the city that he's come to be the mayor of might be a very nice thing."

He added that the logistics of the work were achievable and "I think it's going to be an adventure."

Talking about how people would get on to the plinth, Gormley said: "We presented a hydraulic stair but I'm rather favouring a crane so there is a moment of theatre every hour. There would be a rather nice moment like going into the crease to bat where the person leaving and the person arriving will meet each other."

He said historically the square was the place for military heroes and it had become a place of ethnic celebration. Asked how he would guard against anti-social behaviour Gormley said: "I think they will be subject to the law even when they are on the plinth.

"The law will still be the law on the plinth.

"In the feasibility study there are six curators of the project that are always on hand 24 hours."