The power that art has to divide opinion! The newest addition to the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square is doing just that: some see a vision of childish innocence (as I did I have to admit) while others see the continuing almost nonchalant victory of the lazy upper classes over the oiks (the rest of us in other words).
Whatever your opinion (and of course you will have one) it is a remarkable piece. Perhaps the subject lends itself to lightness but I was astonished to discover that it weighs two tonnes. I suppose it would, being made out of bronze. It is also gold plated – perhaps a nod to one of its sponsors, Louis Vuitton. Since 2005 there have been eight attempts to temporarily fill the empty space, this being the latest. It is certainly monumental – looks can be deceptive: this sculpture stands over four meters in height.
The sculpture, by Elmgreen and Dragset is bizarrely titled Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 but is already being called Rocking Horse Boy by many admirers. It was unveiled by AbFab star Joanna Lumley two days ago – with Boris Johnson the Mayor of London already trying to co-opt it as a mascot for the upcoming Summer Olympics in the city (as if it needs any more marketing).
The fourth plinth was vacant for an age – it was originally intended to be the home of a statue of William IV who was to be depicted atop a horse signalling victory. Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 is certainly surrounded by many a warlike statue - it is seen by the artists as a response to its environment.
In other words it is something of a critique which might make some people a little cross – yet another pop at British history they might say. Yet it is difficult not to be charmed by the rocking horse boy – blithely spirited as he is. His gilt may not presage a new golden age for Britain (all that glitters...) but he is a pint-sized puck who will cheer up many a passerby.