The latest artwork to occupy Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth has finally gone up, four months after its original unveiling was delayed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Created by British artist Heather Phillipson, who is known for her sculptural and video works, this is The End — the rather ominous implications of its name compounded by the fact that it is the thirteenth artwork to occupy the space.
On first glance, the sculpture seems fairly whimsical: a shiny cherry teetering precariously atop a generous dollop of whipped cream. But note the fly and the drone, and the sculpture becomes somewhat more unnerving, inviting ideas of decay, surveillance and impending collapse. In fact, you are being watched — the drone transmits a live feed which can be viewed here.
Such themes arguably make it a totally apt piece of public art for 2020, a year in which a global pandemic brought much of the world to a standstill. And those involved with the project have acknowledged the seismic changes that have taken place since the sculpture’s conception.
“When Heather’s work was selected two years ago we could never have imagined the world we find ourselves in today”, said Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries. “But we always knew this sugary swirl with a dystopian flavour would spark a conversation.”
The artist has also been commissioned by Art on the Underground to produce a new online work to accompany it. Volta deals with upheaval, renewal and possibility, and can be accessed here.
With a braille panel included on its plaque, tactile imagery, and audio description available via the GLA’s website, The End is the Fourth Plinth’s first fully accessible commission. It’s also the tallest artwork to date, measuring 9.4m and weighing 9 tonnes.
“I wanted to take into account both the political and physical aspects of Trafalgar Square and the plinth. I’m honoured…to see THE END scaled up for its ultimate size and context – one in which the surrounding architecture and its population are participants in a mis-scaled landscape, magnifying the banal, and our cohabitation with other lifeforms, to apocalyptic proportions.”
-Heather Phillipson, artist.
The End will stay in Trafalgar Square until spring 2022, so you’ve got plenty of time to see it in situ. In the meantime, you can check out the live stream for a sculpture’s eye view of the square.