A statue of Queen Elizabeth II will not be placed on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in the foreseeable future, Sadiq Khan’s office has said.
Since the death of the Queen there have been calls for a monument to be erected on the empty plinth in the centre of London, which has been used as a platform for contemporary artworks since 1999.
It was initially intended to support a statue of William IV, but has been empty since the mid-19th century.
It is understood that the Fourth Plinth will continue to showcase new works by world-class artists for the foreseeable future. There are planned Fourth Plinth exhibits for the next four years. Samson Kambalu’s new commission, Antelope, will be in situ until Sept 2024.
Mr Kambalu’s work depicts John Chilembwe, the anti-colonialist pastor who led a 1915 revolt against British rule in Nyasaland, now Malawi. This winning commission has been criticised by some because the revolt led to bloodshed, including the decapitation of a British settler.
Mr Khan said the work would “encourage discussion about the fight for freedom and equality”. The commission that is set to follow Kambalu’s work, created by the artist Teresa Margolles, depicts the faces of 850 transgender people.
Works are chosen by the Fourth Plinth Commission, appointed by the Mayor’s office, which whittles down a longlist of contemporary proposals in sketch form to a shortlist of six.
From this, the winning proposal is approved by the Mayor and funded by the Great London Authority at a cost of £140,000, plus a £30,000 artist’s fee. There is a new artwork roughly every two years.
Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it was suggested the scheme come to an end. A government source intimated that a permanent monument to the late monarch would be considered for the Fourth Plinth.
The Mayor of London’s office has said it would support any statue to the late monarch in the capital, saying: “A statue of the Queen at a suitable location in London is a matter for the Royal family to consider, and of course the Greater London Authority stands ready to support them in their wishes.”
However, it is understood there are no current plans to scrap the Fourth Plinth scheme, which is one of the most prominent public commissions in the world and has generated controversy over the quality of the artworks erected.
In recent years, these have included a fly-like drone perched on a sculpture depicting an ice cream cone, a golden rocking horse and a giant blue rooster.
The scheme was first proposed in 1994 by Prue Leith, then chairman of the Royal Society of Art and now a judge on The Great British Bake Off.
Initially, the empty plinth was filled with artwork from a limited collection and the project was overseen by the society. The Greater London Authority then took over the project.
Speaking to The Guardian, Ms Leith said she would prefer to see the Fourth Plinth scheme continue, adding: “It’s really important that the contemporary stuff stays in the square. Each sculpture has had its fans and its detractors. Even if you hate what’s there, you know it’s coming down next year.”