Fourth Plinth - Shortlist For 2026 And 2028 Sculptures Is Revealed

Last Updated 19 February 2024

Fourth Plinth - Shortlist For 2026 And 2028 Sculptures Is Revealed

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A psychedelic looking motor home
The Smile You Send Returns to You by Chila Burman. Photo: James O Jenkins

It's 25 years since the first Fourth Plinth artwork — Ecce Homo by Mark Wallinger — was unveiled in Trafalgar Square.

Since then, we've had whipped cream studded with drone flies, an oversized ship in a bottle and a massive blue cock — among many others. The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group like to plan ahead, and while Improntas (Imprints) by Teresa Margolles will take over Plinth-sitting duties in September 2024, the shortlist for the artworks that'll take pride of place in 2026 and 2028 has now been announced. It looks like this:

The Smile You Send Returns to You by Chila Burman: A psychedelic ice cream van, 'The Rocket' — pimped up with a tiger seemingly vomiting various colourful tchotchkes — tells of Burman's father's voyage to the UK from India on the HMS Battory. How can you not look at this and grin.

A nest-shaped sculpture
Hornero by Gabriel Chaile. Photo: James O Jenkins

Hornero by Gabriel Chaile: A mash-up of a wood-burning oven and a nest made by the rufous hornero bird (a national emblem of Argentina), this may be the subtlest nominee on the list — the yin to Burman's yang. Apparently the rufous hornero builds homes on high surfaces (such as monuments) so the Fourth Plinth could hardly be more fitting. The pigeons might have something to say about that though.

A black cat sculputre
Believe in Discontent by Ruth Ewan. Photo: James O Jenkins

Believe in Discontent by Ruth Ewan: Taking its title from words by suffragist Charlotte Despard, this sculpture is based on a mass-produced ornament of a black cat, and reminds us a little of those coke black art deco moggies at Mornington Crescent. The sculpture, we're told, "challenges the hierarchy of sculpture versus ornament in public space as well as reflecting on the Square's role in the history of social change". This one will certainly get the nod from cat people, but could the dog loving contingent scupper it?

A golden sculpture of a woman's head
Ancient Feelings by Thomas J Price. Photo: James O Jenkins

Ancient Feelings by Thomas J Price: Many Londoners will already be familiar with the work of Thomas J Price; he specialises in crafting fictional people of colour, including his 'everywoman' on a phone. More recently, his works appeared on permanent display at the revamped National Portrait Gallery, and some are currently featured in a free display at the V&A. This time, Price has cracked out the bronze, for this strong yet simple contemporary bust of "a fictional woman whose features have been amalgamated from a wide range of historic sources".

A sculpture of a sprouting sweet potato
Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Not the Same by Veronica Ryan. Photo: James O Jenkins

Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Not the Same by Veronica Ryan: Food rears its head from time to time on the Fourth Plinth (see Heather Phillipson's creamy The End); here, the humble potato gets its dues — presented as a 'sweet potato island', which "represents the global conversations that happen in Trafalgar Square". Surely one of the favourites.

A woman striding in a baby blue dress
Lady in Blue by Tschabalala Self. Photo: James O Jenkins

Lady in Blue by Tschabalala Self: A bold, almost cartoonish sculpture pays homage to a young, metropolitan woman of colour — and comes with the same 'everywoman' vibes that Ancient Feelings is angling for. Thanks to its vibrant lapis lazuli blue colour, huge sense of fun — and the fact it's crafted by a woman — we'd wager this one ends up on the Plinth over Price's effort.

Untitled by Andra Ursuţa: The most nebulous of all the sculptures, Untitled "presents a hollow, life-sized person on a horse covered in a shroud and cast in a slime-green resin". Comparisons to Slimer from Ghostbusters are inevitable; this is both enjoyable and eerie. But is it solid enough to make the top two?

A green, slimy looking sculpture
Untitled by Andra Ursuța. Photo: James O Jenkins

So who decides which two of the above will go on the Fourth Plinth? Well, while the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group have the final say, they will be taking the public's opinions into account — you can view them and vote online, or go and see scaled-down versions of the proposed sculptures at the National Gallery (until 17 March 2024). We'd be surprised if Chila Burman's ice cream van doesn't make it up there; it's the perfect mixed of colourful and quirky, plus Burman has a track record with these things, creating a memorable festive light show outside Tate Britain in 2021 (which also featured The Rocket ice cream van). Lady in Blue is a strong contender too, although perhaps the judges wouldn't go for two vibrantly cartoonish works in a row? Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Not the Same may well take the Plinth also. Or perhaps we're entirely wrong.

Anyway, this is a fantastic, thought-provoking stable of artworks. Which would you put on the Fourth Plinth?