The Gift Horse on the Fourth Plinth.


Place Category: Architecture and Visual ArtsPlace Tags: gift horse, modern art and Trafalgar Sq.

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  • The fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square had originally been intended to display a statue of William IV on a horse, but was never completed owing to lack of funds.

    However, the Gift Horse turned out to be The most overtly political sculpture on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth since it was given over to contemporary art.
    The Gift Horse, by the German-American artist Hans Haacke, features an LED bow showing a ticker of the latest London stock prices tied round the bronze skeleton of a horse. It is being seen as a symbol of the ravages of the market.

    Boris Johnston, Mayor of London at the time of unveiling, mentioned “In those fabulous tubular structures you will see symbolised the vital infrastructure – the tube that must run beneath the surface of any great and beautiful city. The tubular structures that have received such fantastic investment thanks to our chancellor… and indeed playing a part in the greatest economic recovery this city has ever seen, and the driving force of the UK and indeed [the] European economy.”

    The fourth plinth commissioning group is well aware of the political nature of the work. The artist Grayson Perry, a member of the group, tweeted: “I am very pleased that Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse will be on the fourth plinth in the runup to the election.”

    The art critic Waldemar Januszczak said awarding Haacke the commission was “like letting Trotsky loose on Buckingham Palace”.

    The Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota, defended the choice for the fourth plinth, saying Haacke was “a very fine artist who has consistently exposed those things that need to be exposed in the world”.

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