This week I visited London again, and this time we went to Trafalgar Square – that well-known landmark and magnet for tourists.
When I was very young, probably around ten years of age, I visited London several times and we would always end up there. In those days, Trafalgar Square was inhabited by hundreds, if not millions, of pigeons, and tourists were encouraged to buy bird food for them. They would land on all parts of your body, whether you liked it or not. You could barely walk without treading on one of those infernal birds…. But now the pigeons are gone, the buildings and monuments cleaned up, and it is a different place altogether.
Located in Trafalgar Square, are four massive plinths – the Fourth Plinth was built in 1841 and was meant to hold an equestrian statue of William IV but, due insufficient funds, remained empty. Over 150 years later, the Fourth Plinth now hosts a series of commissioned artworks which each occupy the plinth for 18 months and is the most talked about contemporary art prize in the UK.
The current exhibit is ‘Gift Horse’ designed by Hans Haacke. The sculpture depicts a skeletal, riderless horse, a tribute to economist Adam Smith and English painter George Stubbs. The horse is based on an etching by Stubbs, the famous English painter whose works you can see in the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Tied to the horse’s front leg is an electronic ribbon displaying live the ticker of the London Stock Exchange, completing the link between power, money and history. ‘Gift Horse’ will be on view on the Fourth Plinth until September 5.
Previous artwork which has stood on the fourth plinth has included a three metre high marble sculpture of a limbless pregnant torso of the artist Alison Lapper, a five metre high architectural model of a hotel made of coloured glass, a model of a head crushed between a book and the roots of a tree, and wait for it – this is the weirdest – an idea by artist Antony Gormley, when, over the course of a hundred consecutive days, a total of 2,400 selected members of the public each spent one hour on the plinth. They were allowed to do anything they wished, and could take anything with them that they could carry unaided. According to the artist “it reflects the diversity, vulnerability and particularity of the individual in contemporary society. It’s about people coming together to do something extraordinary and unpredictable”. There was a live feed to a TV Internet channel which showed the activity on the plinth.
Hmmmmmm…. you know my thoughts about modern art! Read my post about it here.….