Joanna Lumley Unveils Fourth Plinth Statue, Elmgreen & Dragset’s Powerless Structures, Fig. 101

This video documents the unveiling of the Fourth Plinth statue Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. On February 23, 2012, the British actress Joanna Lumley unveiled the new temporary artwork for the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. Conceived by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, the work is a 4,1 meters high golden bronze sculpture that portrays a boy riding a rocking horse. The sculpture is titled Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 and stands in striking contrast to the motives of historical heroes and proud equestrian statues on the other three bases.

The Fourth Plinth is one of four bases that stand at the corners Trafalgar Square in central London. The two smaller southern plinths carry sculptures of Henry Havelock and Charles James Napier; the northern plinths were designed to carry equestrian statues. While the northeastern plinth was completed with a statue of George IV, the northwestern plinth, originally intended to hold an equestrian statue of William IV, remained empty because of insufficient funds. Built in 1841, the Fourth Plinth remained empty for over 150 years.

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have finally added the missing equestrian statue to the Fourth Plinth, but their boy astride his rocking horse doesn’t commemorate a glorious history, but is rather symbol for the future, and puts the past in a different perspective.

Elmgreen & Dragset follow Mark Wallinger (1999), Bill Woodrow (2000), Rachel Whiteread (2001), Marc Quinn (2005), Thomas Schütte (2007), Antony Gormley (2009), and Yinka Shonibare (2010) to occupy the Fourth Plinth. In 2013, Katharina Fritsch’s commission Hahn / Cock will be unveiled. The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) initiated the use of the Fourth Plinth for contemporary art in 1998. Today, the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England funds the Fourth Plinth Programme.

Joanna Lumley Unveils Fourth Plinth Statue, Elmgreen & Dragset’s Powerless Structures, Fig. 101. Trafalgar Square, London / UK, February 21, 2012.

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Complete video (6:59 min.):

Photo set:
Elmgreen & Dragset: Powerless Structures, Fig. 101

Press release:


The next commission for the Fourth Plinth, Powerless Structures, Fig 101, by Scandinavian artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset will be unveiled in Trafalgar Square at 9.30am on Thursday 23 February 2012.

Commissioned by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England, the sculpture portrays a boy playing astride his rocking horse and will be cast in bronze.

The child is elevated to the status of a historical hero in line with the iconography of the other statues in the square. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, however, the work celebrates the heroism of growing up and questions the tradition of monuments predicated on military victory or defeat. There is not yet a history to commemorate here – only a future to hope for.

The boy’s features gently mimic the authoritarian pose often found in the tradition of equestrian sculptures, but his gesture is one of pure excitement. There will be no tragic consequences resulting from his imaginary conquest.

The artists Elmgreen & Dragset said: “We always considered the small everyday battles in each person’s life just as important for the understanding of our culture as any big sensational headlines.”

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “The year that we host the greatest show on earth is an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate London’s status as the cultural capital of the world. Elmgreen & Dragset have created a gleaming sculpture for the Fourth Plinth, which will be a high profile attraction during a summer like no other – with its nod to equestrianism I hope it augers well for medal glory at the 2012 Games!”

Ekow Eshun, Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Elmgreen & Dragset have accepted the commission and have produced such a compelling artwork. I am very much looking forward to the unveiling next month.”

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director of Arts Council England, said: “The Fourth Plinth provides a unique international platform for some of the world’s finest contemporary artists, allowing them to comment on London and the world we live in. Elmgreen and Dragset’s new commission maintains all the joy, intrigue and depth that we have come to expect, and gives a timely visibility to the place of the very young in our society. I hope Londoners take it to their hearts.”

The Fourth Plinth Programme is funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England and sees new artworks being selected for the vacant plinth in a rolling programme of new commissions. A key element of the Fourth Plinth Programme is to involve the public in debate about contemporary art in our public spaces. 17,000 people commented on the shortlisted proposals on cards at the proposals exhibition at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 2010 and via the website following the unveiling of the proposals.

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