By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) - An ancient Assyrian winged bull sculpture destroyed by Islamic State fighters in 2015 is to be remade from empty Iraqi date syrup cans and displayed in Trafalgar Square in London.
The work by U.S. artist Michael Rakowitz has won the next commission for the square's unoccupied Fourth Plinth, upon which a series of 11 new artworks have been displayed since 1999, organizers said on Tuesday.
The original winged bull, a protective deity known as the Lamassu, stood from about 700 BC at a gate of the ancient city of Nineveh on the outskirts of the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul, a former Islamic State (IS) stronghold now being besieged by Iraqi forces.
The bull was destroyed by the militants along with other artifacts in Mosul Museum.
"It’s the first time this project has been situated in a public space, and it’s happening when we are witnessing a massive migration of people fleeing Iraq and Syria," said Rakowitz in a statement.
As part of a U.S.-led coalition, Britain participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, justified at the time by allegations that dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The Iraq war became deeply unpopular over time in Britain, and many critics of then Prime Minister Tony Blair have blamed the 2003 invasion and its bloody aftermath for the later rise of IS. Blair has resisted this interpretation of events.
Rakowitz started working in 2007 on a project in which he uses recycled Middle Eastern food packaging to recreate artifacts damaged or destroyed during the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2003. He now also includes objects destroyed by IS.
Trafalgar Square is one of London's main focal points, attracting thousands of tourists every day. It has been the scene of countless official celebrations and ceremonies, but is also a venue of choice for mass protests.
The Fourth Plinth was erected in 1841 to display an equestrian statue, but money ran out and it remained empty for 158 years until a program of special commissions was launched.
Rakowitz's Lamassu will be unveiled next year and will follow on from the sculpture on display now, a giant thumbs up by David Shrigley called "Really Good".
The Lamassu will remain on display until 2020, when it will be replaced by "THE END" by British artist Heather Phillipson, which consists of a giant whirl of cream topped by a cherry, a fly and a functioning drone.
Phillipson said the work represented "hubris and impending collapse" and was designed to respond to the political and physical aspects of Trafalgar Square.
The square is home to Nelson's Column, a giant monument celebrating Horatio Nelson, victor of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar against combined French and Spanish forces, as well as other bronze statues of figures from British history.
(Editing by Stephen Addison)