In Trafalgar Square

Anne Wagner

Over the last twenty years the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square has played host to 12 commissions, each a reminder that there’s no easy path to relevance, let alone aesthetic success. More than one work has breached the fine line separating populist eloquence from authorial laziness. In Antony Gormley’s One & Other (2009), 2400 volunteers (one an hour) took turns standing in for that upright figure that now signifies ‘Gormley’. With the plinth as a stage and the square their theatre, the artist’s surrogates danced, sang and otherwise confessed themselves, day in and day out. Cameras rolled, a safety net discouraged jumpers, while six stewards stood on permanent guard in case the ‘public’ decided to act up. In comparison, Katharina Fritsch’s cartoony blue Hahn/Cock (2013-15), came across as perfectly judged in relation to Nelson and his lions. At almost 16 feet high, the giant fibreglass rooster was lord of all he surveyed.

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