A sculpture symbolizing Britain’s complex colonial ties and an artwork featuring the faces of 850 transgender people are set to go on display in Trafalgar Square, one of London’s highest-profile venues for public art.
City officials on Monday announced the next two works to occupy the “fourth plinth,” a large stone pedestal in the central London square.
From 2022 to 2024 the plinth will display Malawi-born artist Samson Kambalu’s “Antelope,” a sculpture of Pan-Africanist leader John Chilembwe beside European missionary John Chorley. Based on a 1914 photograph, it depicts Chilembwe as the much larger figure, “revealing the hidden narratives of under-represented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond,” City Hall said.
Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’ “850 Improntas (850 Imprint),” featuring casts of the faces of transgender people from around the world, will be installed in 2024. City Hall said “the ‘life masks’ will be arranged round the plinth in the form of a Tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilizations” of what is now Central America and Mexico.
One of London’s main tourist attractions and protest sites, Trafalgar Square was named for Admiral Horatio Nelson’s 1805 victory over the French and Spanish fleets. A statue of the one-armed admiral stands atop Nelson’s Column at the center of the square, and statues of other 19th-century military leaders are nearby.
The fourth plinth was erected in 1841 for a never-completed equestrian statue, and since 1999 has been occupied by a series of artworks for about 18 months at a time.
The current occupant is Heather Phillipson’s sculpture “The End” — a giant swirl of whipped cream topped with a cherry, a fly and a drone. It’s due to stay on display until September 2022.