From cocks to horses: Introducing the tenth artwork on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth - Hans Haacke's Gift Horse

From the innuendo-baiting giant blue cock that’s stood proudly atop the Fourth Plinth for the last year or so, to Marc Quinn’s moving marble rendering of artist and phocomelia sufferer Alison Lapper, artworks on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth have provoked admiration, derision and debate for 16 years.

Now onto the tenth commission, the Fourth Plinth has become one of the most prestigious platforms in contemporary art – a dramatic turnaround, given that for 150 years it remained sculptureless because of a lack of funds. Originally intended to display an equestrian statue of William IV, it was only after the Fourth Plinth Project (1999-2001) that politicians began to wake up to the potential of the empty pedestal on Trafalgar Square’s northwestern side.
The initial project, featuring works by Mark Wallinger, Bill Woodrow and Rachel Whiteread, was such a success that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport decided on a permanent. rolling programme of temporary artworks. The latest, Gift Horse by 78-year-old Hans Haacke, is unveiled on Thursday. The bronze horse skeleton is based on an engraving by 18th century painter George Stubbs, whose famous painting of a rearing horse hangs in the National Gallery just across the road.


2015: HANS HAACKE

The controversial artist subverts the traditional equestrian statue with his bronze horse skeleton, Gift Horse. On the horse’s front leg is an electronic ribbon displaying the ticker from the London Stock Exchange.


2013: KATHARINA FRITSCH

Fritsch’s departing Hahn/Cock sculpture was described by the artist as "a feminist sculpture, since I, a woman, am depicting something male.”


2012: MICHAEL ELMGREEN AND INGAR DRAGSET

The Danish artists’ sculpture was an intentional subversion of traditional monuments to military victory.


2010: YINKA SHONIBARE

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was a replica of the HMS Victory, complete with sails made from vibrantly printed fabric.


2009: ANTONY GORMLEY

For Gormley’s One and Other, 2,400 selected members of the public spent an hour on the plinth.


2007: THOMAS SCHÜTTE

Model for a Hotel was an architectural model for a 21-storey building made from coloured glass.


2005: MARC QUINN

For many critics, Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn is the iconic fourth plinth work. Also an artist, Lapper was born with no arms and shortened legs.


2001: RACHEL WHITEREAD

The Turner prize-winning artist’s Monument sculpture was a cast of transparent resin that refracted the light and changed colour with the weather.


2000: BILL WOODROW

Woodrow’s Regardless of History was a book sandwiched between a head and the roots of a tree.


1999: MARK WALLINGER

Wallinger’s Ecce Homo – meaning “behold the man” in Latin – was an ironic comment on man’s delusions of grandeur. Standing atop the enormous plinth, the life-sized figure of Christ looked absurdly tiny. The work was well received by critics.

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