No bones about it: This is one special “Gift Horse”

Han Haake's striking horse sculpture adorns Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth, complete with a London Stock Exchange ticker feed. Photo: London Gov/Facebook
Han Haake’s striking horse sculpture adorns Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth, complete with a London Stock Exchange ticker feed. Photo: London Gov/Facebook

A sculpture showing the skeleton of a horse, resplendent with a live feed from the London Stock Exchange, has been unveiled atop one of London’s most prestigious art spaces.

Gift Horse, created by Hans Haacke, is the 10th art commission to grace the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

It was unveiled on Thursday morning by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

The Fourth Plinth was originally intended to hold an equestrian statue of William IV, but remained bare due to insufficient funds.

For more than 150 years the fate of the plinth was debated, but in 1999 a sequence of three contemporary artworks to be displayed on the plinth were announced.

The success of the initiative led to the Fourth Plinth project, with the plinth continuing to be used for the temporary display of artworks.

The latest offering portrays a skeletal, riderless horse – a wry comment on the equestrian statue of William IV originally planned for the plinth.

Tied to the horse’s front leg is an electronic ribbon displaying live the ticker of the London Stock Exchange, completing the link between power, money and history.

The horse is derived from an engraving in The Anatomy of the Horse of 1766 by George Stubbs, the famous English painter whose works are represented in the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.

Born in Cologne, Haacke lives and works in New York.

For the last four decades he has been examining the relationships between art, power and money, and has addressed issues of free expression and civic responsibilities in democratic societies in his work.

He works in many different mediums, including painting, photography and written text.

Mayor Johnson said at the artwork’s unveiling: “As Hans Haacke’s take on the equestrian statue trots into Trafalgar Square, it brings another reason for Londoners and tourists to visit this cultural landmark.

Gift Horse is a startlingly original comment on the relationship between art and commerce and I hope it will stimulate as much debate as the other works that have appeared on the Fourth Plinth.”

The chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, Ekow Eshun, described Haacke’s Gift Horse as an important, arresting sculpture.

“It asks questions about the role of money and power in modern London. And it marks the Fourth Plinth programme’s continued commitment to bring the work of leading British and international artists to the heart of the city and into dialogue with the public.”

Gift Horse replaces a giant ultramarine blue cockerel which was displayed on the plinth for 18 months. That work, titled Hahn/Cock, was by Katharina Fritsch.

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