The Forth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, has become one of the most talked about public art commissions in the UK, if not the world, and continues to draw admiration by the public and discussion in the press.
The latest commission to grace the previously (and ominously) empty plinth in Trafalgar Square is by the esteemed German artist Hans Haacke and is called Gift Horse. The twice life-size skeletal bronze sculpture of a horse is derived from an etching by George Stubbs, the English painter famous for his depictions of horses, and features an electronic ribbon displaying live the ticker of the London Stock Exchange.
Gracefully perched above the square, Haacke’s Gift Horse plays on the relationship between power, money and history and compliments the other sculpture in Trafalgar Square. However, quite aside from the more traditional sculpture that graces the vicinity of the National Gallery (complete with its famous Stubbs paintings) and the surrounding area of Westminster, Gift Horse has far greater and more relevant political undertones.
Grayson Perry CBE, artist, Royal Academician and member of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, recognised the significance of the artwork’s political undertones tweeting “I am very pleased that Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse will be on the Fourth Plinth in the run up to the election. Unveiling on the Thursday morning.”
Whatever you want to read into Gift Horse, the electronic ribbon that displays in real time the London Stock Exchange performance is brazen, visually captivating and forces the viewer to ponder the relationship between art and money, between power and art and a combination of all three.
With the art market continuing to defy any talk of previous recessions or stable but steady growth, there could be a view that art (and therefore Gift Horse) is above the stock market and that the art economy on its own should be considered very powerful. Visually, Gift Horse draws viewers around the sculpture which can be viewed at different levels around the base of the plinth and from various points across Trafalgar Square and is transformed at night when the ticker is visible and eye-catching before the sculpture itself can often be seen in the dark.
Previous commissions enjoying stints on the Fourth Plinth include Powerless Structures (header image) by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset and most recently Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch which was the bright blue cockerel gracing Trafalgar Square until February this year. The Fourth Plinth Programme is funded by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England.
If you have not had a chance to visit Gift Horse by Hans Haacke yet, the sculpture is set to be in place for 18 months and is free to visit. Maybe you’ll draw your own conclusions as to what Haacke’s sculpture represents, or what his comment might be on the relationship between politics and the economy in the UK…
Thanks to https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/arts-culture/fourth-plinth for the information.