Faces of 850 ‘overlooked’ trans people could become major artwork in London’s iconic Trafalgar Square

·2-min read

A work made from the casts of the faces of hundreds of trans people is among the latest proposals for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.

The group that commissions public artworks for the London landmark – which has been home to temporary installations since 1998 – has shortlisted six pieces from artists around the world including the US, Germany, Ghana, Mexico and the UK.

Among the shortlisted artworks is Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’ Improntas (Imprint). The proposed sculpture would highlight people whose “lives are often overlooked”, and would feature plaster casts of the faces of 850 trans people – most of whom are sex workers.

The casts will be arranged around the fourth plinth to create a Tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilisations used to display the remains of war captives or sacrifice victims.

Detail Improntas (Imprint) Teressa Margolles
Detail of ‘Improntas (Imprint)’ by artist Teressa Margolles, one of six proposals on display at the announcement of the fourth plinth shortlisted artworks at the National Gallery on 24 May 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Other proposals for the fourth plinth include Goshka Macuga’s CONOGO, a giant rocket which would encourage people to look up towards outer space, and Nicole Eisenman’s The Jewellery Tree – a monumental recreation of a jewellery tree featuring an assortment of items including Lord Nelson’s medals, a plastic coffee lid and a crushed beer can.

Samson Kambalu’s Antelope restages a 1914 photograph of Baptist preacher John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley as a sculpture. The sculpture would highlight Chilembwe, who is wearing a hat in an act of defiance of a colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people.

Ibrahim Mahama’s work, titled On Hunger And Farming In The Skies Of The Past 1957-1966, recalls grain silos partially built by Eastern European architects in Ghana during the early 1960s. The sculpture would be based on a silo from Tamale in northern Ghana – Mahama’s hometown.

The final proposal for the fourth plinth is German artist Paloma Varga Weisz’s sculpture Bumpman. The figure is inspired by German folklore. Bumpman is described as a “quiet anti-hero”, and the protrusions on the sculpture’s body represent “our own insecurities and body dysmorphia”.

The current artwork featured at Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth is Heather Phillipson’s The End – a giant replica of whipped cream topped with a cherry, a fly and a drone – which will be on display until September 2022.

The public can vote for their favourite artworks until 19 June, and two winning designs will go on display in 2022 and 2024 respectively.

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