Elmgreen & Dragset’s Fourth Plinth, in London’s Trafalgar Square

Elmgreen & Dragset’s Fourth Plinth, in London’s Trafalgar Square

The weather was kind yesterday in Trafalgar Square as a new artwork by Danish artists (and long-term Wallpaper* collaborators) Elmgreen & Dragset was unveiled on the Fourth Plinth. The 4m-high bronze boy on a rocking horse is a witty and deliberate contrast to the statue of King George IV on the opposite plinth.

’I think we were chosen because so much of our work involves the use of space, and Trafalgar Square is such an important place in London,’ says Ingar Dragset. He and Michael Elmgreen work in the capital but are based in Berlin (their home-cum-studio featured in W*116). The piece, officially named ’Powerless Structures, Fig. 101’, ’is not about victory and defeat but expectation and change,’ Dragset adds.  

Elmgreen & Dragset - who we recently teamed up with for our September fashion story - are no strangers to monarchy-inspired monuments. Elmgreen hails from Denmark, which has its share of regal pomp and ceremony. ’Of course, we are bringing some humour, but we also wanted to bring a human, non-powerful element to the square,’ they say.

The artists also refer to the history of the plinth, which was built in 1841 for an equestrian statue of King William IV, which was never installed. Now, 170 years later, the plinth gets its monument, albeit one of an innocent anti-hero.

More than any other public artwork in London, The Fourth Plinth - set up as an art project in 1998, and supported by Louis Vuitton and Alixpartners - provokes heated discussions and transforms every Londoner into an art critic. ’Golden Boy,’ as the statue has been dubbed, is sure to have its fans and detractors. Ironically (or perhaps deliberately, in this Olympic year), it is supposed to show that there is more to life than winning, and that the simple things in life must also be celebrated.  

For Elmgreen & Dragset, having Joanna Lumley at the unveiling of their sculpture was a highlight. ’She absolutely lights up a room,’ says Elmgreen. The duo met her through Drama Queens, a play they wrote and performed at the Old Vic in 2008.

The Golden Boy follows Yinka Shonibare’s sculpture of Nelson’s Ship in A bottle, and will be replaced next year by German artist Katharina Fritsch’s sculpture of a giant blue cockerel.   


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