Art: Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth

Outdoor Sculpture


Home to both The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, London’s Trafalgar Square is brimming with art. But you needn’t cross a threshold to see it.

In 1998 the Royal Society of Arts established the Fourth Plinth Project, which sees the bare fourth plinth in the northeastern corner of the square host temporary sculptures by world-class artists. The hotly anticipated contestants inject the historical square with contemporary art – and also spark lively discussion and debate.

Setting the standard in 1999 was Mark Wallinger’s “Ecce Homo”, a life-size fake marble figure of Christ. A good dose of humour often helps: Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue cockerel “Hahn/Cock” was erected in 2013. Sometimes the sculptures stand in contrast to those around them: Hans Haacke’s “Gift Horse”, a skeletal equine that displayed a live feed from the London Stock Exchange, trotted onto the plinth in 2015. And now it’s occupied by David Shrigley’s “Really Good”, a seven-metre-high bronze thumb’s up.

So, who or what will be the plinth’s next inhabitant? Until 26 March, maquettes of the shortlisted proposals for 2018 and 2020 are being displayed at the National Gallery. Two of the contenders: a cherry-topped blob of ice cream crawling with a giant fly and a surveillance drone; and a lime-green VW truck precariously piled high with scaffolding, oil cans and a tall ladder. Watch this space.

Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5NJ.

Photo: Candy Atlas.

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