There are a several public art commissions on display in London at the moment, but the Fourth Plinth is probably THE most visited monument – millions of people pass by every day as it just so happens to be sat bang smack in Trafalgar Square. The plinth sits in the northwest corner of the square that was originally intended for an equestrian statue, but that got booted out and since 1999 the plinth has been a sought after space for contemporary art – the pieces commissioned stand for up to nearly two years. A new exhibition at the ICA presents twenty-one maquettes designed by artists who have submitted them as proposals and some that were realised. It includes Rachel Whiteread’s inverted plinth made in 2001, Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo, the first ever commissioned piece in 1999; Sara Lucas’s proposal in 2003 which is a car showered in pigeon feaces – an ironic tribute to the flying rats, which have made Trafalgar Square their home, and then there’s Marc Quinn’s sculpture of English artist Alison Lapper, who was born without arms, that stood there for almost 2 years between 2005 and 2007.

One of the most popular commissions so far has been Antony Gormley’s – he revolutionised the concept of the plinth by using the space for live, public art performances. Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days, a member of the public occupied the fourth plinth. At the moment stands a statue that closely references the initial purpose of the plinth. Elmgreen & Dragset’s cast bronze statue of a boy riding a rocking horse replicates the traditional victorious monuments that occupy the other three plinths: “We wanted to create a public sculpture which, rather than dealing with topics of victory or defeat, honours the everyday battles of growing up.”  Over the years, the fourth Plinth has been both celebrated, as well as causing debate, but what it has done is create a dialogue with the public, something that is only usually preserved for the gallery goer. The Plinth has made everyone an art critic, and the exhibition at the ICA hopes to do the same. We suggest you go check out the proposals and judge for yourself.

The Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument at the ICA is on until 20 January 2013. For more information [click here]

Words by Tefkros I. S Christou.