Right of Reply: Prue Leith

The Vice President of the Royal Society of Arts defends their plans for Trafalgar Square
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The Independent Culture
YOUR LEADING article ("Populism on the plinth") implies that the RSA is somehow ignoring the people's wish by proposing a temporary display of contemporary works on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. For 150 years nothing appeared there because no one could agree. Originally the plinth was to have been occupied by an equestrian statue of William IV, but he failed to leave funds to pay for the work. And so the plinth has remained empty, because no proposition has yet managed to achieve general approval.

We consulted widely for three years and the suggestions from the public included ideas for both contemporary and traditional exhibitions; for "heroes" as diverse as Pooh Bear and Nelson Mandela, and for themes such as Peace and Democracy. But "the public" does not speak with one voice. So we tested the various ideas with interested bodies, possible funders and with a feasibility study.

We have been working with advisers from Sculpture at Goodwood, the Tate Gallery, ArtAngel and the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. To get the debate going about the long-term solution, we intend to hold a temporary exhibition of contemporary sculpture.

Seventeen British artists were invited to submit ideas, out of which three were chosen by the commissioning panel, who, if planning permission is granted, will provide interest, excitement and pleasure to Londoners and tourists in Trafalgar Square.

Other cities are much braver about showing off their best artists - Paris had an exhibition down the Champs-Elysees of about 50 sculptures from Rodin to Lynn Chadwick, and New York has Flanagan's Hares all down Park Avenue. Let's, for once, take a risk, if only a temporary one.

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