Prue Leith, who says her proudest achievement was turning Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth into a showcase for contemporary art, is resisting calls for it to be made a permanent statue to the Queen.
In an interview for the Guardian, if a decision was made to place a statue of the Queen on the fourth plinth, the bake-off judge was wary of a compromise plan to create a fifth plinth to allow modern sculpture to continue to be displayed in the square.
Last week the Government said it would consider a permanent statue for the Queen on the vacant pedestal after a proposal by Conservative MP John Hayes was greeted with a chorus of ‘Hear, Hear’.
Leith, who thinks the location isn’t prominent enough for a queen, came up with the idea of the fourth pedestal sculpture program when she was Chair of the Royal Society of Arts and spent years campaigning to get it up and running.
She said: “I’m proud of it. If there’s one thing I’ve done in my life that I would like to continue, it would be the fourth socket. It was a great success.”
On Wednesday, a work on British colonialism by Samson Kambalu will be unveiled as the 14th sculpture since the program began in 1998.
Leith defended the often provocative history of the system. She said: “It keeps the contemporary art debate going and has become part of the national curriculum for children to think about art in public spaces.
“It’s really important that the contemporary stuff stays in place. Every sculpture had its fans and its critics. Even if you hate what’s there, know it’s coming down next year.”
To avert a brewing culture dispute over the future of the plinth, the Public Statues and Sculpture Association proposes a fifth plinth on the north edge of the plaza as a space where the program can continue.
Its co-chair Holly Trusted said: “There was always a feeling that the fourth pedestal project was keeping it warm and that ultimately it would be for the Queen. But we don’t want the contemporary to be sacrificed, so a constructive solution would be to have a fifth plinth in Trafalgar Square that would be better suited to contemporary sculpture.”
Leith, who was a member of a panel that selected a statue of the Queen on horseback commissioned for Windsor Great Park in 2003, said: “I would never object to the statue of the Queen. And if there had to be an extra pedestal, it could work as long as it fits the symmetry of the square.”
But she added: “I don’t think the fourth pedestal is special enough for the Queen. I think there should be a statue of her outside of Westminster Abbey where she was crowned. There is an elevated grass area that would be perfect – you would see it from all sides. Eventually I talked about it, but lost the energy to fight for it. It took five years and 13 committees to get the fourth pedestal on the road.”
Former National Portrait Gallery director Sandy Nairne, a former chair of the pedestal’s fourth jury, is also opposed to making her a permanent statue to the Queen.
He said: “There’s no way a back corner of Trafalgar Square is appropriate. Just think of the size of the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. I’m not suggesting anything that big, but she had a longer reign than Queen Victoria. And much more.
“I’m not aware of anyone planning the options for a statue for the Queen. But it has to be great and wonderful. We should all feel it was their rule.”
And Nairne thinks the fourth socket program should stay. “If it can go on, it should go on. It was an enormous success for London. I have to say this because I oversaw it for eight years. It got more and more interesting as the artists were willing to think in the most intriguing way.”
#Prue #Leith #instigator #fourth #socket #resists #calls #Queen #statue