MD2179 Fourth Plinth programme 2017-2021

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
26 October 2017
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

The Fourth Plinth Programme forms an important part of the Mayor of London’s Culture Strategy. Over the period of this MD, the programme will deliver the 12th and 13th sculptures for the Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square. The next two commissions, by Michael Rakowitz and Heather Phillipson, will be unveiled in March 2018 and March 2020 respectively. The programme will also launch the sixth commissioning round, which will shortlist and select the two commissions that follow.
MD1516 approved the allocation of £254,000 GLA funding for the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Programme in the financial years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. 



That the Mayor approves the following:

•    Revenue expenditure of up to £800,000 between 2017-2021 for the delivery of the Fourth Plinth Programme;

•    The application for, receipt and expenditure of Arts Council England grant income of up to £160,000 to supplement the programme up to 2021; and

•    Capital expenditure of up to £400,000 between 2017-2021.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1    The Fourth Plinth Programme is a powerful manifestation of London’s leading position as a world class cultural capital, referred to as the ‘UK’s biggest sculpture prize’. Over the past 16 years the Fourth Plinth in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square has been home to some of the world’s most innovative artworks and has become a global exemplar in commissioning public art. Antony Gormley’s commission generated unprecedented public engagement – including over nine million website hits; Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant, was televised across the world as part of the London 2012 Paralympic Closing Ceremonies. The current commission, Really Good by David Shrigley, was unveiled by the Mayor in September 2016 and has been reported on worldwide with a media value of over £2.5 million, reaching 342 million people. 

1.2    The shortlist exhibition of six proposals took place at the National Gallery for eight weeks and was seen by 670,000 people, generating huge press interest and over 10,000 public comments. The evaluation of public comments concluded that the programme receives an unusually high level and quality of engagement from the public, with overwhelmingly positive responses (98 per cent). 

1.3    MD1516 approved the annual allocation of £254,000 GLA funding for the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Programme in the financial years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. This funding covered the delivery of the Hans Haacke and David Shrigley commissions and launch events, long-listing and shortlisting for the next two commissions (commissions 12 and 13), public exhibition and consultation on the shortlist and associated public engagement programmes including the annual Fourth Plinth Schools Awards competition. Funding also covers the production of commission no. 12 by Michael Rakowitz, which will be unveiled in March 2018. 

1.4    GLA funding for 2017-2021 will be in the form of a grant to Heather Phillipson of up to £200,000. This comprises £30,000 artist fee and £140,000 production costs. In addition the GLA will provide up to an additional £30,000 capable of being clawed back by the GLA where Phillipson: (i) requires over £140,000 of funding from the GLA; and (ii) secures additional funding from a third party. 

1.5    An application was made to Arts Council England to support the Fourth Plinth Programme to deliver the Hans Haacke and David Shrigley Commissions during 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. The funding is directed at public engagement with the programme including scoping for merchandising, increasing the impact of the Schools Awards competition, the development of educational resources and the scoping of a touring exhibition / history of the Fourth Plinth Programme. This grant will be completed in November 2017, a further application to Arts Council England will be made in 2018 to support the next shortlisting process.

1.6    Grants have to be applied for and are not guaranteed, however we have a long relationship with the Arts Council and will develop an application in line with their advice, making sure to meet all their key criteria. If the application is unsuccessful we can reapply, which we would do. The engagement aspects of the programme can be scaled, if the grant isn’t received, but we would seek funding elsewhere to ensure that engagement activity continues, the grant would not affect the fundamental aspects of the programme.

1.7    The annual Mayor of London Fourth Plinth Schools Awards engages schools across London with the Fourth Plinth programme, by inviting students to respond to the commissions on the Plinth. The programme reaches all Boroughs in London and encourages children to engage with the commissioning process and consider the issues of use of public spaces. Winning entries are exhibited at City Hall. Submissions have grown each year, in 2017 there were entries from 4,000 students, a 20% increase on the previous year. Further resources will be developed for teachers and students, including schools’ packs and teacher inset sessions. 

1.8    The GLA will be responsible for procuring and entering into contracts for the de-commissioning of the current sculpture, and the production and safe installation of the sculptures by Michael Rakowitz and Heather Phillipson. The GLA will also begin the process of assembling the next longlist and shortlist for the sixth commissioning round. 

1.9    In consultation with the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group and International Nominators, a long list of up to 25 key worldwide artists will be drawn up for 2022 and 2024 commissions. Following a shortlisting from these artists, up to six artists will be given grants to produce maquettes of their works, which will be displayed as part of a Public Engagement Programme (Shortlist Exhibition). Each of the six shortlisted artists will receive grant funding of up to £6,000 towards the cost of producing the maquette.  A venue for the Shortlist Exhibition is yet to be determined, but it is envisaged that this will be in a location near Trafalgar Square. This process has been independently assessed and shown to be a model of best practice, as such the process has been replicated by the High Line Art Programme in New York.

1.10    On selection of the two winning works, planning applications will be made to Westminster City Council. Once commissioned, each of the two winning artists will receive a grant of up to £140,000, as a contribution towards the costs of fabrication of the artwork, and a prize of £30,000. Artists are required to provide proof that production costs over and above the grant amount will be met. However, additional sponsorship funding may be sought by the GLA to assist in meeting the costs of delivering and enhancing this project. 

Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1    The objective of the Fourth Plinth Programme is to promote and support an enhanced public realm in London and make world class art available for free. The Fourth Plinth Engagement Programme extends the reach of the commission across London and globally. 

2.2    The outcomes of the Fourth Plinth programme include:

(i)    Production and launch of the 12th Fourth Plinth Commission, Michael Rakowitz, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist
(ii)    Production of the 13th Fourth Plinth Commission by Heather Phillipson, THE END
(iii)    Delivery of annual Schools Awards and Public Engagement Programme 
(iv)    Delivery of resources for schools and families for more in depth engagement with the Fourth Plinth and built environment, particularly Trafalgar Square 
(v)    Scoping of Merchandising Strategy for the Fourth Plinth Commission
(vi)    Increased engagement through social media through the provision of a Social Media internship Programme. 
(vii)    Delivery of Commissioning Round 6 including scoping for other routes for further public engagement
(viii)    Delivery of the next Fourth Plinth shortlist and Shortlist Exhibition in Spring 2020 for 2022 and 2024 commissions

Equality comments

3.1          The Programme will ensure that more children and young people in London have an 
opportunity to access free arts and cultural activities through the delivery of the Fourth Plinth Commission in Trafalgar Square and the Schools Awards, an art competition for children in London's primary and secondary schools across all London Boroughs. Participation in 2017 from Outer London Boroughs was increased to 56% of the submissions. 

3.2    The Fourth Plinth Commission on Trafalgar Square is accessible and the commission is a key component to bringing high quality art to all. The Shortlist Exhibition is also situated in an accessible venue and encourages all equality groups to participate in public life. 

3.3    We will work in partnership with key strategic agencies to monitor and continue to develop our programmes (e.g. SHAPE, Into Art, Attitude is Everything) to ensure that communication around the programme also meets the needs of equality groups that are different from the needs of others.

Other considerations

4.1          Links to strategies and Mayoral and corporate priorities:

•    The Fourth Plinth Programme is identified as a key mechanism for delivering against themes in the Mayor’s Draft Cultural Strategy: Love London and Hardwiring Culture into the Capital. It also makes a significant contribution to the World Capital of Culture through the delivery of a high profile public art programme which is emulated in other cities.

•    The Fourth Plinth Programme is an integral aspect of the promotion of Trafalgar Square as a world class public space and venue for cultural activity. 
4.2          Impact assessments and consultation:

•    In relation to the commissioning round that resulted in the selection of the Rakowitz and Phillipson commissions there was an extensive public consultation that involved 10,000 members of the public, the winning two commissions were also the two commissions favoured by the consultees.

•    The aim of the programme is to facilitate maximum public engagement in the Fourth Plinth Commissioning process. The public were asked to express their preferences on the proposed sculptures within the context of participation in art. In both rounds, the culture team worked closely with both the consultation and marketing teams to ensure maximum engagement. 

•    A similar process will take place during the short-listing of the artists for the future commissioning round.

•    Consultation will also take place with the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, which includes:

•    Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery
•    Mick Brundle, Principal, Arup Associates
•    Jeremy Deller, Artist
•    Ekow Eshun, Writer, Broadcaster (Chair)
•    Eleanor Pinfield, Director, Art on the Underground
•    Matthew Slotover, Co-director, Frieze
•    Jon Snow, Broadcaster
•    Justine Simons OBE, Greater London Authority (Project Director)
•    Representative from Arts Council England

4.3    Risks & issues:

•    Final fabrication cost for each work can be higher than the production allowance within the GLA budget. This is enshrined in the grant agreement as the responsibility of the artist as the owner of the work and the GLA Risk Register Form will be completed.

•    Sliding timescales for production of work would result in reputational damage on delivery of project.  A dedicated Project Manager oversees the production and communication with artists is carefully managed and all previous commissions have been delivered on time.

•    Stakeholder Commitment – Arts Council funding ends in 17/18. Arts Council England has been a long-term supporter of the Programme, who considered it a strategic priority. The continued good relationship with this key funder is being maintained and an Arts Council representative sits on the Commissioning Panel. Further funding is being sought by the GLA in order to mitigate this risk, however, if no further funding is received, the Programme will be scaled back to reflect the lower levels of funding available. 

Financial comments

5.1    Approval is being sought for the GLA allocation and associated expenditure relating to the Fourth    Plinth Commissioning Programme for the period between 2017 – 2021. This will involve production costs, the award of grants, prizes to winning artists and the seeking of income to further enhance this programme over the next 4 years. 

5.2    As part of the 2017-18 budget process, the Fourth Plinth Programme was allocated £1.2m over a 4-year period (a combination of revenue and capital funding). This has been profiled as follows, with the budget provision indicative from 2018-19 to 2020-21 (subject to any approved changes agreed via the 2018-19 budget process currently underway).

Financial Year

Revenue Expenditure

Capital Expenditure
































5.3    In 2017-18, expenditure has been allocated as below.  Expenditure for the following years, will follow a similar pattern.  Note figures have been rounded.

Revenue Expenditure £150,000

Capital Expenditure £200,000


£20,000 Artist Fee

£15,000 Production costs (non-capital)

£32,000 Schools Awards

£40,000 Marketing

£27,000 Engagement Activity

£6,000 Skills Development

£10,000 Digital content


£120,000 Production costs

£30,000 Unveil costs

£30,000 Installation costs

£20,000 Schools Awards Build













5.4    During the Fourth Plinth Commissioning round, officers will pursue opportunities to further enhance the programme; this includes the application to the Arts Council for a grant of up to £160,000 for 3 years (as detailed in the main body of this report). Subsequently any other income which is secured, aside from this, will still be subject to approval.





Activity table




Delivery Start Date for 2018 commission

October 2017

Launch of 2018 Commission

March 2018

Launch of 2020 Commission

March 2020

Announce commissions for 2022 and 2024

Autumn 2020


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