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Faces of 850 Trans People to Grace London’s Fourth Plinth

Faces of 850 Trans People to Grace London’s Fourth Plinth

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Faces of 850 Trans People to Grace London’s Fourth Plinth

London’s Fourth Plinth Commission has announced the next two works to occupy the fourth plinth in the city’s Trafalgar Square. The first, to appear in autumn 2022, is to be a bronze sculpture by Malawi-born artist Samson Kambalu of preacher and African independence hero John Chilembwe and his friend the British missionary John Chorley. The work is based on a 1914 photograph taken at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland (now Malawi), showing both men wearing hats—and thus depicting Chilembwe engaged in an act of rebellion. “In 1914 in Nyasaland,” Kambalu told Reuters, “Africans were not allowed to wear hats in front of white people.” The sculpture will present Chilembwe as larger than life, while the dimensions of Chorley’s figure will echo those of the figures permanently occupying the square’s other three plinths, to show that “this is Chilembwe’s story,” according to Kambalu.The second work, to appear in 2024, will be a work by Mexican artist Teresea Margolles and featuring the “life masks” of 850 trans people from London and around the world. These will be arranged around the plinth in a configuration meant to recall tzompantli, or skull racks, that Mesoamerican civilizations employed to display the remains of victims of sacrifice and war. Margolles has said the work is meant to deteriorate in the elements, thus becoming “a kind of anti-monument.”Nicole Eisenman, Goshka Macuga, Ibrahim Mahama and Paloma Varga Weisz were also invited to submit proposals for the commission, one of the most prestigious and highest profile in the world. “This year was an incredibly strong shortlist from six incredibly exciting contemporary artists,” said Ekow Eshun, chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group. Eshun noted that 17,500 members of the public voted on the matter this year, the greatest number to do so to date. “I am thrilled at the outcome and very much looking forward to seeing the new works on the plinth.”The Fourth Plinth occupies the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square. Built in 1841, it was intended to support a statue of William IV astride a horse, but remained empty for more than 150 years owing to lack of funding. In 1998, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) began commissioning temporary sculptures for the plinth, and in 2005, the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group was established to shepherd the commissions, on which the public votes. Currently occupying the plinth is a sculpture by Heather Phillipson embodying a large dollop of whipped cream being scaled by a colossal fly, presumably in an attempt to reach the appealing gigantic cherry at the white peak’s top. Past Fourth Plinth works have included Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock  (2013), Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle (2010), Rachel Whiteread’s House (2001), and Bill Woodrow’s Regardless of History (2000), the last tersely but evocatively described on Wikipedia as embodying “a head crushed between a book and the roots of a tree.”

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