Dezeen Magazine

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled for Trafalgar Square

Six shortlisted proposals for the next art installation atop the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square have been unveiled today, including a giant blue cockerel, a cash machine that operates a pipe organ and an enormous model of a battenberg cake (above).

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled

Top: Battenberg by Brian Griffiths
Above: Untitled (ATM/Organ) bybAllora and Calzadilla

The proposals by Allora & Calzadilla, Elmgreen & Dragset, Katharina Fritsch, Brian Griffiths, Hew Locke and Mariele Neudecker are on show at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square until 31 October.

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled

Above: Hahn / Cock by Katharina Fritsch

The winning design will be announced early in 2011. Update: see the winning design in our later story.

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled

Above: Sikandar by Hew Locke

Visitors are invited to comment on the proposals using cards at the exhibition and via the project website.

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled

Above: It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back by Mariele Neudecker

All images are copyright James O Jenkins, courtesy of the artist.

Fourth Plinth proposals unveiled

Above: Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 by Elmgreen and Dragset

Here are some more details plus captions from the organisers:


The six shortlisted proposals for the new Fourth Plinth commission in Trafalgar Square were unveiled today at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.

The exhibiting artists are Allora & Calzadilla; Elmgreen & Dragset; Katharina Fritsch; Brian Griffiths; Hew Locke; and Mariele Neudecker. Each artist has produced a model of their proposed artwork for the empty plinth all of which are on public display free of charge in the foyer of St-Martin-in-the-Fields until 31 October 2010. The six works are as follows:

Allora & Calzadilla present Untitled (ATM/Organ), a working ATM embedded within the Fourth Plinth, which when accessed, will trigger a functioning pipe organ, set on top of the plinth, producing sounds which will reverberate throughout the Square.

Elmgreen & Dragset present Powerless Structures, Fig.101, a brass sculpture of a boy astride his rocking horse, gently questioning the tradition for war monuments to celebrate either victory or defeat. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, the work celebrates the heroism of growing up.

Katharina Fritsch presents Hahn / Cock, a giant cockerel in ultramarine blue, which in the setting of the square renders the situation surreal. The cockerel symbolises regeneration, awakening and strength and refers, in an ironic way, to male-defined British society and thoughts about biological determinism.

Brian Griffiths presents Battenberg, an outsized representation of the sponge cake, invented to commemorate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The work will be made from hand crafted Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary household bricks along with other traditional building materials.

Hew Locke presents Sikandar, a replica of the equestrian statue of Field Marshal Sir George White from Portland Place transformed into a fetish object, decorated with horse-brasses, charms, medals, sabres, ex-votos, jewels, Bactrian treasure and Hellenistic masks.

Mariele Neudecker presents It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back, a fictional mountainscape, that presents two images of Britain: the flipped and reversed shape of the peninsula when from seen above and its more familiar outline when viewed from below.

The selected artist is due to be announced by the Mayor of London early next year, with the installation of the final artwork taking place after the current work, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare MBE, is taken down at the end of 2011.

The Fourth Plinth Programme is funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England and sees new artworks being selected for the vacant plinth in a rolling programme of new commissions. A key element of the Fourth Plinth Programme is to involve the public in debate about contemporary art in our public spaces. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the shortlisted proposals on cards at the exhibition and via the website following the unveiling of the proposals. (

Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, said: “The Fourth Plinth has become the most eagerly anticipated art commission in the country and these latest proposals show why. Each of the artists has come up with a very different vision, their wit and originality offering a highly individual response to the historic backdrop of Trafalgar Square and the fact that one of the sculptures will be installed in 2012, only adds to the excitement.”

Ekow Eshun, Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: “The new proposals for the next Fourth Plinth commission are world-class and they find fresh and imaginative ways to engage with the historic surroundings of Trafalgar Square. They are the work of an outstanding selection of artists and the Commissioning Group is very excited by their ideas. We will have a tough time choosing between them but we look forward to making a recommendation to the Mayor later this year. All good art stimulates debate. We hope that the public will enjoy the exhibition and will share their thoughts with us.”

Moira Sinclair, London Executive Director of Arts Council England said: “The Fourth Plinth commissions always generate excitement and debate about contemporary art – and this shortlist is set to continue this tradition as our partnership with the Mayor’s Office enters its ninth year. Delivering high quality art with audiences of millions is at the heart of what the Fourth Plinth does, and it represents what can happen when public agencies work together with a joint aim. We wish the best of luck to all the artists and look forward to finding out what the successor to Yinka’s magnificent Ship in a Bottle will be.”

Brian Griffiths
Proposed materials: a unique collection of glazed and unglazed Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary bricks from around the United Kingdom, coloured render.

The Battenberg cake was invented on the advent of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter - Princess Victoria of Hesse - to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. As such, the pink and yellow cake is a humble commemoration of the Victorian era and a link with a British past that has slowly crumbled. Yet this past still influences contemporary life, not least in our cities where we are surrounded by Victorian public sculpture.

Increased to gigantic proportion, fashioned from a selection of traditionally made household bricks and placed on a plinth alongside other Victorian statues in Trafalgar Square, the cake becomes a wry monument to monumentality. It highlights a much- changed contemporary Britain while gently questioning the role of contemporary art in today’s late capitalist society where our perception of culture is as a consumer experience.

The sculpture transforms the Battenberg as a symbol of teatimes past, into a contemporary comment on commodity, commemoration and collective identity. It poses a reflection on how even the most outmoded objects persist and come to talk about our life, our dreams and aspirations as a nation.

Allora and Calzadilla
Untitled (ATM/Organ)
Proposed materials: ATM with pipe organ constructed from metal piping and wood

Untitled (ATM/Organ) consists of installing an automated teller machine (ATM) in the Fourth Plinth, connected to a functioning pipe organ which will produce sound by driving pressurised air through pipes selected via the ATM machine keyboard. Each time customers press the ATM keyboard to access bank accounts worldwide to make cash withdrawals, credit card cash advances, account balance inquiries and so on, it will trigger the pipe organ to produce a range of notes and chords at varying degrees of loudness which will reverberate throughout Trafalgar Square.

This project addresses a range of themes and subjects such as personal banking, global financial systems, commerce, the sacred and the profane, music making and personal and public space in a humorous manner. Within the context of Trafalgar Square, a prominent landmark location in London, the work will bring these issues to a large audience fostering a thought-provoking debate.

Katharina Fritsch
Hahn / Cock
Proposed materials: steel, epoxy, paint

The sculpture, a larger than life cockerel in ultramarine blue communicates on different levels. First of all is the consideration of the formal aspect of its placement: the mostly grey architecture of Trafalgar Square would receive an unexpectedly strong colour accentuation, the size and colour of the animal making the whole situation surreal or simply unusual.

The cockerel is also a symbol for regeneration, awakening and strength and at the same time plays with an animal motif that was popular in classic modernism, for example in the works of Picasso. However it is frowned upon today because it has become kitsch through overuse in the applied arts. Finally, the theme refers, in an ironic way, to male-defined British society and thoughts about biological determinism.

Hew Locke
Proposed materials: fibre glass, aluminium, brass, steel chain, UV and flame resistant fabric

The Plinth was designed to receive an equestrian bronze: 170 years later Sikandar fulfils that original ambition. The artwork replicates the statue of Field Marshal, Sir George White (1835-1912) that stands in Portland Place and transforms it into a fetish object. The sculpture will be embellished with horse-brasses, charms, medals, sabres, ex-votos, jewels, Bactrian treasure and Hellenistic masks, creating layers of material and meaning with multiple possible readings.

Sikandar, translates as Alexander in Urdu; Khandahar being one of the cities Alexander the Great named after himself. Commanders to this day measure themselves against him, and at this moment somewhere in Afghanistan, a member of our troops will be reading his histories. Alexander's military empire was short-lived, but his Hellenic cultural influence lasted centuries.

Sir George White fought in the Indian Mutiny, the Second Afghan War (winning the Victoria Cross in Khandahar), the Nile Expedition, the Burmese War and the Second Boer War. Specific medals and decorations on the sculpture will refer to these conflicts and a plaque would elaborate on this as well as the recurrent cycles of history, linking past with present and Britain with other nations, making it relevant to visitors and locals. The work will bring a social and historic focus to the Square, contributing to its role as a place of dissent and celebration. The proposal is not an anti-military critique. It is an investigation into the idea of the Hero and the problematic and changing nature of heroism.

Elmgreen and Dragset
Powerless Structures, Fig.101
Proposed material: brass

In this portrayal of a boy astride his rocking horse, a child has been elevated to the status of a historical hero, though there is not yet a history to commemorate - only a future to hope for. Elmgreen & Dragset’s work proposes a paraphrase of a traditional war monument beyond a dualistic worldview predicated on either victory or defeat. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, Powerless Structures, Fig 101 celebrates the heroism of growing up. It is a visual statement celebrating expectation and change rather than glorifying the past.

The rocking horse, a toy originally dating from the 17th Century, and later popularised in Britain, is here depicted in a stylized version merging a Victorian model with a contemporary mass-produced design.

The boy's features and gestures underscore a character that has its own “infantile” logic, one that is not yet influenced by the classic masculine expression. As in a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, this “enfant terrible” gently mocks the authoritarian pose often found in the tradition of equestrian sculptures. His wild gesture, mimicking the adult cavalier, is one of pure excitement – there will be no tragic consequences resulting from his imaginary conquest

Mariele Neudecker
It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back
Proposed materials: fibreglass, polished stainless steel

It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back is elevated above the Plinth and represents a fictional mountainscape. It is “specific in its dramatically modelled detail” and if viewed from above reveals the flipped and reversed shape of Britain. From below, the map is the right way around and more familiar. The juxtaposition of different views shifts the observer’s perception of the mountain from majestic and generic landscape to territorial space.

The location and fabric of this sculpture link with features and characteristics of Trafalgar Square as well as to classical sculptures and sublime landscape paintings in the nearby National Gallery. For example, mountains and monuments frequently share the same composite material – granite. Trafalgar Square is seen therefore, as a landscape of everlasting memorials to England’s military and empirical past. Historically mountains represent monumentality, conquest, glory and ownership. In turn, the sentiments frequently attached to landscapes have often served as reminders of our more fragile, human, moral and mortal positions in the grandest considerations of the sublime.

It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back provokes thoughts about a monumental past and future of both Landscape and City, including our relationships with both as individuals and as citizens in a multicultural metropolis.

Fourth Plinth Programme: Six new proposals
Dates: 19 August – 31 October 2010
Venue: Crypt foyer, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JJ
Opening Hours: Monday and Tuesday 8.00am – 8.00pm, Wednesday 8.00am – 7.00pm, Thursday–Saturday 8.00am – 9.00pm and Sunday 11.00am – 6.00pm.
Entry: FREE

See also:


The Battle of Trafalgar
by Jaime Hayón
Outrace by Kram/Weisshaar
for Trafalgar Square
ArcelorMittal Orbit
by Anish Kapoor