Let's Use The Blackfriars Stumps As An Archive For Fourth Plinth Commissions

M@
By M@
Let's Use The Blackfriars Stumps As An Archive For Fourth Plinth Commissions
Fourth Plinth commissions on stumpy

You've probably seen 'Old Stumpy', the series of red columns that protrude from the Thames at Blackfriars.

The mysterious piles get photographed a lot. They are, in some sense, already a public artwork. But wouldn't it be neat to top each one with a sculpture? Specifically, why not use them to display former Fourth Plinth commissions, after they've had their time in Trafalgar Square?

Our mock-up shows how things might look, were some of the highlights to make a return.

What are the red columns at Blackfriars?

The uprights have stood here since 1864. They once supported one of two rail bridges in the Blackfriars area. One was demolished in the 1980s, leaving just the stumps and the elaborate crest of the London, Chatham and Dover railway; the other remains as the existing Blackfriars rail bridge.

Four of the pillars have since been subsumed into the second bridge, but the remaining eight still stand in isolation.

Why we should use Old Stumpy for Fourth Plinth commissions

  • The pillars have no current function, other than as a backdrop for quirky Instagram snaps, or as a perch for the bolder breed of cormorant.
  • The Fourth Plinth scheme, ran from the Mayor's office, is the city's most high-profile sculpture project, seen by millions each year. Why not give it a second site?
  • Many of the commissions, such as Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper and David Shrigley's 'thumbs up', have proven enormously popular with the public. Let's keep them on show.
  • It is widely accepted that the fourth plinth will eventually hold a statue of Queen Elizabeth II, bringing to an end the run of temporary commissions. The Blackfriars site would become a legacy of the project.

Why this is, in fact, a terrible idea

  • The artworks formerly on show in Trafalgar Square are scattered to the four winds, with different owners. Reacquiring them, even on loan, would be tough and costly.
  • Few, if any, of the artworks were designed with a riverine setting in mind. Some might deteriorate in the briny environment above the Thames. Cormorants will shit on them.
  • Blackfriars only has eight stumps. Already, 12 sculptures have decorated the Fourth Plinth, with at least one more planned. Who gets left out?
  • Antony Gormley's One & Other, in which members of the public took turns to inhabit the plinth, might be tricky to pull off above the Thames.
  • We first suggested this back in 2008, and nobody gave a toss.
  • Who would insure such a mad scheme?

Last Updated 02 October 2019