Whilst there may be many things to complain about in London – too many people, tube delays, not enough bike racks, Marmite- sponsored Christmas lights – the inspired choice to load the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square with art isn’t one of them. Since 1999, the empty plinth, originally designed to carry a bronze equestrian statue of King William IV way back in 1841, has become a vehicle for contemporary art. Love it or hate it (not sponsored by Marmite), never let it be said that the plinth doesn’t get people to join the art debate. This new exhibition at the ICA takes a much-appreciated look back at everything that has graced the podium in the historical square.
Since 2005, its success comes down to the artworks specifically commissioned for the plinth: cue some really interesting responses to this unique public forum. Artists Yinka Shonibare, Marc Quinn, Bill Woodrow and Thomas Schutte have all had a go. Anthony Gormley’s piece One and Other, has arguably been the most inventive and memorable response – an invitation to the public to apply for a one hour opportunity to stand on the plinth and use it as they will. The commissioning group features the top dogs of the contemporary art world in London and Jeremy Deller, Ekow Eshun (former ICA director), Grayson Perry, Matthew Slotover (co-director of Frieze) all have a say in what goes up.
The exhibition will take a further broad look at how the plinth has been accepted or reviled by its audience. Drawing on archive material, media responses and public comments, the show promises to also shed light on how contemporary art is understood by broader society. Like the comments board at the end of a blockbuster show, the exhibition gives some much needed space to ponder the relevance of the plinth project. Well worth a visit. (Words: Laura Thornley)
The Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument exhibition runs until January 20, 2013. For more info, visit: http://www.ica.org.uk/35205/Exhibitions/Fourth-Plinth-Contemporary-Monument.html