Today the next two artists to take on the esteemed Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square were announced: Samson Kambalu and Teresa Margolles. They were chosen from a shortlist, judged by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group alongside a public vote.
Kambalu’s piece is titled Antelope and is a sculptural recreation of a 1914 photograph of Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley. The composition of the sculpture is significant as Chilembwe is depicted as larger than life, while Chorley is life-size. This highlights Chilembwe’s story while also passing comments more broadly on the hidden narratives of underrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond. What’s more, Chilembwe is pictured wearing his hat, defying a colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing their hair in front of white people.
Elsewhere, Margolles’ winning submission elevates the stories of the trans community through a piece titled 850 Improntas (850 Imprint). It features cases of the faces of 850 trans people from London and around the world, a community Margolles interacts with closely through her work and one that is often unable to access social care. The arrangement of the masks mirrors a Tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican (an area covering central Mexico to northern Costa Rica) civilisations.
A monumental commission and a highlight of the arts calendar, the Fourth Plinth was initiated in 1998 by the RSA with the support of the Cass Sculpture Foundation. Today, it’s funded by the Mayor of London with support from Arts Council England. Bloomberg Philanthropies will also support the two commissions for the first time as part of its commitment to public art in global cities. The Fourth Plinth will also feature on the Bloomberg Connects app later this year, a free app that allows users to access museums, galleries, and cultural spaces around the world. Also new this year is a partnership with Google Arts & Culture that will allow audiences to explore the history of the Fourth Plinth through an online interactive experience.
Justine Simons OBE, deputy mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries says in a statement: “I’m so proud that London has the confidence to put bold, contemporary artworks that have the power to challenge and delight right in the heart of our city. Art is a great way to tackle topical subjects such as race and gender and these new Fourth Plinth commissions will do exactly that.” It’s a sentiment echoed by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan: “Our international shortlist showed again that the Fourth Plinth is one of the most important art commissions in the world, and I’d like to congratulate Samson Kambalu and Teresa Margolles as the next artists to have their work displayed. They will be shining a spotlight on important issues that our society continues to face, and I know they will spark debate and interest at home and abroad.”
Kambalu’s work will be unveiled in 2022 and Margolles’ in 2024, following on from the current sculpture the End by Heather Phillipson, which will remain until September 2022.
Samson Kambalu: Antelope (Photograph by James O Jenkins. Copyright © Samson Kambalu, 2021)
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