Sweet potato island and ice cream van feature in shortlisted Fourth Plinth works

Artworks that feature a sweet potato island and an ice cream van are among those shortlisted for London’s Fourth Plinth.

The Trafalgar Square north-west pedestal has been home to art commissions for more than 25 years, with internationally renowned artists including Sir Antony Gormley and Dame Rachel Whiteread among previous exhibitors.

Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’s work has already been announced as the next sculpture and will be unveiled in September.

Improntas (Imprints) features casts of the faces of 850 transgender people from London and around the world. The “life masks” will be arranged around the plinth in the form of a Tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilisations.

Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth artwork
Teresa Margolles’ Improntas (Imprints) features casts of the faces of 850 trans people from London and around the world (Victoria Jones/PA)

Liverpool-born Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Argentinian Gabriel Chaile, Scottish Ruth Ewan, London-born Thomas J Price, Montserrat-born Veronica Ryan, American Tschabalala Self and Romanian Andra Ursuta are those up for the honour.

Ekow Eshun, chairman of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: “On behalf of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, I would like to thank the artists for taking the time to consider this unique commission so carefully.

“There is an incredible group of works on show today, and we look forward to hearing the public’s thoughts on these proposals.”

In The Smile You Send Returns to You, Burman, who describes herself as a Punjabi Liverpudlian, shows her regular motif, her father’s ice cream van The Rocket, at the centre of the sculpture and his voyage to the UK from India.

Turner Prize 2022
Sculptor Veronica Ryan was named the winner of the Turner Prize 2022 (Brian Roberts/Tate)

Price wants to make a golden bronze sculpture that shows a fictional woman, amalgamated from a wide range of historic sources called Ancient Feelings.

Ewan’s Believe In Discontent takes its title from suffragist Charlotte Despard, who addressed crowds in Trafalgar Square, and is modelled on a mass-produced ornament of a black cat, referencing the way the women’s rights campaigners were portrayed by the media at the time.

Other shortlisted works include Chaile’s celebration of the behaviour of the Rufous Hornero bird, a national emblem of Argentina, Self’s bronze work that pays homage to a young, metropolitan woman of colour and Ursuţa’s hollow, life-sized person on a horse covered in a shroud and cast in a slime-green resin.

British artist Mark Wallinger in front of his statue Ecce Homo, a contemporary life-size figure of Christ at Trafalgar Square in London (Neil Munns/PA)

Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture, creative industries and 24-hour London team, said: “The Fourth Plinth is renowned across the globe for bringing world-class contemporary art to the heart of London.

“I’m delighted that our shortlisted artists have provided such thought-provoking pieces.

“For 25 years, the sculptures on the Fourth Plinth have sparked interest and debate, bringing out the art critic in everybody. I’ve no doubt that these proposals will continue that fantastic tradition.”

The proposals will be available to view online and maquettes of their proposed artworks will be on display at the National Gallery until March 17.

The first work to occupy the Fourth Plinth, Ecce Homo by British artist Mark Wallinger, was unveiled as a contemporary life-size figure of Christ in 1999.

The two winning works will be announced in March 2024.

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