Mayor unveils 10th Fourth Plinth Commission

05 March 2015

The new commission for the Fourth Plinth, Gift Horse by artist Hans Haacke, was unveiled by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson this morning in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Commissioned by the Mayor as part of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Programme, Gift Horse is the tenth sculpture to be unveiled on Trafalgar Square’s celebrated plinth.

Gift Horse portrays a skeletal, riderless horse – a wry comment on the equestrian statue of William IV originally planned for the plinth.

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.

The horse is derived from an engraving in The Anatomy of the Horse of 1766 by George Stubbs; the famous English painter whose works are represented in the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Born in Cologne, Hans Haacke lives and works in New York.

For the last four decades Haacke has been examining the relationships between art, power and money, and has addressed issues of free expression and civic responsibilities in democratic societies in his work.

He works in many different mediums including painting, photography and written text. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2014); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2012); MIT List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge, MA (2011); X-Initiative, New York (2009); and Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2006).

Haacke’s work has been included in four Documentas and numerous biennials around the world.

He shared a Golden Lion Award with Nam June Paik for the best pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale (1993), and in 2000 he unveiled a permanent installation in the Reichstag, Berlin.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: 'As Hans Haacke's take on the equestrian statue trots into Trafalgar Square, it brings another reason for Londoners and tourists to visit this cultural landmark. Gift Horse is a startlingly original comment on the relationship between art and commerce and I hope it will stimulate as much debate as the other works that have appeared on the Fourth Plinth.'

Ekow Eshun, Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: ‘Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse is an important, arresting sculpture. It asks questions about the role of money and power in modern London. And it marks the Fourth Plinth programme’s continued commitment to bring the work of leading British and international artists to the heart of the city and into dialogue with the public.’

Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: 'The Fourth Plinth showcases high quality works of art in the public realm and we are pleased to continue our support for this project through our Grants for the arts programme. It plays an important role in engaging audiences in debate about arts and culture generally, and art in the public realm particularly. Haacke's Gift Horse is the 10th sculpture to appear on the Fourth Plinth and will no doubt challenge and delight visitors to Trafalgar Square in equal measure.'

As well as being funded by the Mayor of London, Hans Haacke's Gift Horse is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Notes to editors

The Fourth Plinth Programme is one of the most talked about contemporary art prizes in the world. Funded by the Mayor of London, the programme invites world-class artists to make astonishing new works for the centre of the capital city.

An established icon for London, it has been referred to as ‘the smallest but most prominent sculpture park in the world’.

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 Fourth Plinth Programme is now led by the Mayor’s Culture Team, under the guidance of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group (FPCG).

Its first commission was Marc Quinn's sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, unveiled in 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 Fourth Plinth until the end of January 2012 and now has a permanent home at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Powerless Structures, Fig 101 by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset was unveiled in 2012 and will be housed permanently at the Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn / Cock, was the ninth sculpture to be unveiled on the plinth, which it occupied until mid-February 2015. 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 significant funding partner of the programme.

The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group Jo Baxendale – Arts Council England Iwona Blazwick – Director of Whitechapel Gallery Mick Brundle – Principal, Arup Associates Jeremy Deller – Artist Tamsin Dillon – Independent Curator Ekow Eshun – Writer, Broadcaster (Chair) Grayson Perry – Artist Matthew Slotover - Co-director, Frieze Jon Snow – Broadcaster Justine Simons – Head of Culture, Mayor of London (Director, Fourth Plinth Programme) Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. 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 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Related Events: Looking Gift Horse in the Mouth: A Symposium on Hans Haacke Institute of Contemporary Arts Saturday 7 March 2015 This symposium, co-organised by Jon Bird from the Middlesex University and Luke Skrebowski from the University of Cambridge, includes a conversation with Hans Haacke and presentations by international speakers on various aspects of the artist's work and art in the public domain. In partnership with Middlesex University and the Institute of Contemporary Arts Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Fourth Plinth Schools Awards Open to all primary and secondary schools in London, the competition provides an opportunity for students to create an artwork inspired by the commissions for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The competition received a record breaking 1700 entries from children across every single London borough in last year’s open call. Inspiring others to create art and think about what it can say about our city is essential to this creative competition. The proposals display young people’s understanding of and excitement about public art as well as the influence of sculptures which have already adorned the Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Further information about the Fourth Plinth Schools Awards, including images of previous entries and details of how to get involved are available at: www.london.gov.uk/imagination.