The new commission for the Fourth Plinth, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101, by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, was unveiled today in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Commissioned by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England, AlixPartners and Louis Vuitton, the 4.1m high golden bronze sculpture portrays a boy astride his rocking horse.
Built in 1841, the Northwest Plinth was originally designed to host a bronze equestrian statue of King William IV by Sir Charles Barry, which was never installed. After more than 170 years, Elmgreen & Dragset have completed the process by presenting a new take on the tradition of equestrian statues, directly engaging with the history of the plinth itself.
The child is elevated to the status of a historical hero in line with the existing iconography of the other statues in the square. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, however, the work celebrates the heroism of growing up. The image of a young boy astride his rocking horse encourages viewers to consider the less spectacular events in their lives, which are often the most important. The sculpture invokes life’s everyday activities and questions the tradition of monuments predicated on military victory or defeat.
In Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 there is not yet a history to commemorate – only a future to hope for. The boy's features gently mimic the authoritarian pose often found in the tradition of equestrian statues, but his gestures represent pure excitement. There will be no tragic consequences resulting from his imaginary conquest.
Elmgreen & Dragset said, “Now that the sculpture is unveiled it is up to the public to love or hate it, hopefully not ignore it! The boy on his rocking horse will have a fascinating viewpoint throughout 2012 as Trafalgar Square will host all kinds of events; everything from school children dancing in pink leggings for Big Dance, to Chinese New Year or giant film screenings during the Olympics. Trafalgar Square is one of the liveliest parts of London - that’s what makes it so exciting for us and such a huge honour to show our work here.”
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, "The unique artworks that bestride the Fourth Plinth are amongst the many reasons why London is internationally renowned for culture, a vital part of our economy that creates jobs and attracts millions of visitors from around the world. I personally am always excited to see what the latest offering will be and the newest addition is simply magnificent. It seems fitting to have such a gleaming talisman to watch over our city during this fantastic Olympic year – it hopefully will bring us luck in the medal tables this summer!”
Ekow Eshun, Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group said, "Elmgreen and Dragset have created a unique artwork that both questions and celebrates the tradition of equestrian sculpture in Trafalgar Square. Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 is a powerfully resonant but also profoundly enjoyable sculpture that is the latest proud addition to the lineage of work by leading contemporary artists commissioned for the Fourth Plinth. London is a place of fantastic richness and diversity and the boy on the rocking horse is a great symbol of the city in all its promise and vitality."
Moira Sinclair, Executive Director of Arts Council England, said, “The Fourth Plinth provides a unique international platform for some of the world’s finest contemporary artists, allowing them to comment on London and the world we live in. Elmgreen and Dragset’s new commission maintains all the joy, intrigue and depth that we have come to expect, and gives a timely visibility to the place of the very young in our society. I hope Londoners take it to their hearts.”
Pippa Wicks, Managing Director of AlixPartners, said, “We are very excited about the opportunity to work with such thoughtful, talented and insightful people as Elmgreen & Dragset who encourage discussion about their art, what each creation says about a moment in time and the changes that might be triggered as a result. AlixPartners believes in the importance of invoking questions and conversations across generations, communities and cultures, which is why we are proud to lend our support to this inspiring project.”
Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO Louis Vuitton said, “We are delighted to have an involvement in the Fourth Plinth in 2012. Elmgreen & Dragset have created a truly remarkable sculpture for the heart of London and we are looking forward to working with them and the participants of our Young Arts Project this summer. The Mayor of London was involved in the launch of this project and it is fitting that as we draw to the end of our first three years of the project we find ourselves working together once again.”
The Fourth Plinth Programme is the most thought-provoking contemporary art prize in the UK. Funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England the programme commissions world-class artists to make challenging new works for the historic centre of the Capital. Bringing out the art critic in everyone, the Fourth Plinth Programme aims to trigger public debate about contemporary art in London’s public spaces. In 2010, over 17,000 people commented on the six shortlisted commissions for this year’s prize at the exhibition at St Martin-in-the-Fields and via the GLA website. The public can get involved in the debate at http://www.facebook.com/fourthplinthlondon or via twitter @fourth_plinth.
Inspiring others to create art and think about what it can say about our city is essential to the Fourth Plinth Schools Award Competition. Open to all primary and secondary schools in London the competition provides an opportunity for students to design an artwork inspired by the commissions for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The competition received over 700 entries from children across London for this year’s open call. Winning entries will be announced in March 2012 and the top designs will be presented in an exhibition at City Hall in April 2012. www.fourthplinth.co.uk
For the first time, visitors to the Fourth Plinth can further engage with the commission using interactive content, accessed via smartphones. By pointing their phones at the sculpture’s plaque, visitors will be able to experience an augmented reality artwork and unique footage of Elmgreen & Dragset. In addition, the artists are giving away up to 5,000 limited edition digital artworks, which have been specially created to commemorate the Fourth Plinth commission. These will be available free until 5pm GMT on Friday 24 February at www.seditionart.com/elmgreen_and_dragset/powerless_structures
The free apps for smartphones can be downloaded at:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, based in Berlin and London, have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They have held numerous solo exhibitions in art institutions worldwide, including Serpentine Gallery and Tate Modern in London, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, ZKM Museum of Modern Art in Karlsruhe, The Power Plant in Toronto, MUSAC in Léon, and Kunsthalle Zürich. Their work has been included in the Berlin, Sao Paulo, Gwangju, Moscow, Singapore and Istanbul biennials, and in 2009 they received a special mention for their exhibition The Collectors in The Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Amongst their most well known works are Prada Marfa – a full scale replica of a Prada boutique in the middle of the Texan desert, and Short Cut – a car and a caravan breaking through the ground which was first shown in Milan and now resides in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. A major exhibition is planned at the Victoria and Albert Museum for Autumn 2013.
The Fourth Plinth Programme
The Fourth Plinth Programme is the most thought-provoking contemporary art prize in the UK. Funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England the programme invites world class artists to make astonishing new works for the centre of the Capital City. The programme was initiated in 1998 by the RSA with the support of the Cass Sculpture Foundation. In 1999 responsibility for Trafalgar Square was transferred to the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority.
The Fourth Plinth Programme is led by the Mayor’s Culture Team, under the guidance of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group (FPCG). The FPCG recommends contemporary works for the Fourth Plinth. The first commission under the FPCG was Marc Quinn's sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, unveiled in a public ceremony in September 2005. It was followed by Thomas Schütte’s Model for a Hotel in 2007 and by Antony Gormley’s One & Other in 2009. Yinka Shonibare MBE’s sculpture Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle remained on the plinth until the end of January 2012. In November 2011 The Art Fund and the National Maritime Museum launched a public appeal to give the commission a permanent home at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Katharina Fritsch’s commission Hahn / Cock, will follow that by Elmgreen & Dragset and will be unveiled in 2013. Previous commissions have been Ecce Homo by Mark Wallinger (1999), Regardless of History by Bill Woodrow (2000) and Monument by Rachel Whiteread (2001). Arts Council England has been a funding partner supporting the programme since 2003.
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £0.85 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
AlixPartners is a global business-advisory firm offering comprehensive services in four major areas: enterprise improvement, turnaround and restructuring, financial-advisory services and information-management services. Founded in 1981, the firm has more than 900 professionals, has offices around the world and can be found on the Web at www.alixpartners.com
Founded in Paris in 1854, Louis Vuitton is synonymous with the art of travel. Its iconic trunks, luggage, and bags have accompanied journeys throughout time. With the arrival of Artistic Director Marc Jacobs in 1997, Louis Vuitton extended its expertise to ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, watches and jewellery, available in its exclusive network of stores located all over the world. http://www.louisvuitton.com
s[edition] is the leading digital platform for collecting contemporary art, bringing digital limited edition artworks by the world’s leading artists to mobile phones, iPads, computers and television screens. s[edition] offers everyone an immediate, fun and social way to experience collecting, at affordable prices from $8 to $800 (£5 to £500). The platform allows users to follow artists, browse and acquire works, download them to digital devices and screens, send editions as gifts to friends, and start their own collections. Artists featured include Mat Collishaw, Michael Craig-Martin, Elmgreen & Dragset, Tracey Emin, Shepard Fairey, Damien Hirst, Isaac Julien, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Bill Viola and Wim Wenders.
The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group
- Ekow Eshun – Writer, Broadcaster (Chair)
- Jo Baxendale, Relationship Manager, Visual Art, Arts Council England
- Iwona Blazwick – Director of Whitechapel Gallery
- Mick Brundle – Principal, Arup Associates
- Jeremy Deller – Artist
- Tamsin Dillon – Head of Art on the Underground, Transport for London
- Grayson Perry – Artist
- Matthew Slotover - Co-director, Frieze
- Jon Snow – Broadcaster
- Justine Simons – Greater London Authority (Director, Fourth Plinth Programme)