Giant bright blue cockerel erected on 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square

Yesterday London mayor Boris Johnson unveiled Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock, the latest artwork to fill Trafalgar square’s fourth plinth. (Photo courtesy BBC)

blue rooster

 cockerel traf sq

The statue, an ultramarine blue 4,7 m high rooster, replaces Elmgreen and Dragset’s Powerless Structure, a bronze of a boy on a rocket horse, and will reside on the empty 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square for the next 18 month.

Elmgreen and Dragset Powerless Structures_

When interviewed about the meaning of her artwork, the German artist replied: “I think the English have a great sense of humour. I know they like to play games with language. They like their double meanings. So I wanted to play around.”

Humour is certainly one of the main points here: the electric blue sculpture, representing a clear national symbol of France, aiming his beak and feathers to Nelson’s solemn attitude, can be easily seen as an ironic response to the sober celebration of the imperial past.

There’s more to the work than humour though: the unintentional(?) innuendo to the masculine show off-attitude, is a clear mock of male posing and power, represented in the square by Nelson’s column.

The other distinctive feature about Fritsch’s winning commission, which is one of the reasons for her world-wide success as an artist, is his hue: colour has been the signature trait of her artistic practice since her beginnings, together with the austerity and precision of Fritsch’s forms, developed through a painstaking sculpting process, a way to achieve the near industrial perfection of the finish. (See below her work Stilleben for the 54th Venice Biennale)

Katharina-Fritsch_Stilleben2011Katharina Fritsch’s iconic sculptures, installations and sound works are transformed through colour and material into mysterious and transfigured objects; she’s  also keen on synaesthesia and associates colours with numbers and days of the week (Sunday is white, the number seven is blue-grey….)

She believes that adding the colour to her sculptures triggers an emotional reaction in the visitors: among other major achievements, in 2011 one of her installations, a group of nine support-less sculptures, including a yellow Madonna, were showcased in the garden of the MOMA in New York, causing a huge and enthusiastic response in the public.

Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock is the latest of a series of commissioned artwork towering on Trafalgar Square’s 4th plinth since 1998, when the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) commissioned three contemporary sculptures by Mark Wallinger, Bill Woodrow and Rachel Whiteread to be displayed temporarily on the plinth.

Following the enormous public interest, the Mayor of London began the Fourth Plinth Programme, with the aim at inspiring a healthy debate about what constitutes public art: winning commissions that have been featured over the last 7 years include Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant (2005), Antony Gormley’s popular One and Other (2009), Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle (2010).

Yinka Shonibares

Marc Quinn AlisonLapper