The great thing about the Fourth Plinth is that for me, having run out of money when originally laying out a square, pragmatically the Plinth was left unadorned for over one-and-a-half centuries.
At the time of Trafalgar Square’s construction the founder of the modern police force, Sir Robert Peel described as “the finest site in Europe” (he presumably hadn’t been to Venice).
[T]he Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square has had its fair share of curios these past few years: a ship in a bottle; boy on a rocking horse; and as I saw one night, a man standing aloft practicing his golf swing.
The art work – a giant blue cock – that now surmounts the Plinth is a glorious anachronism of the Square’s other incumbents.
If asked to name its other statues most would say ‘Nelson’. Although he stands over 17 ft high we can only gaze up his not inconsiderable nostrils standing up on his lofty position. Cabbies might tell you of the world’s smallest police station in the square’s south-east corner, but who could name any of the other public figures adorning Trafalgar Square?
The three equestrian statues of 19th century notables standing on the other plinths on is of Sir Henry Havelock (he of Indian Mutiny fame) by William Behnes who so driven by debt and drink was literally found one night in the gutter with three pennies in his pocket. The second Sir Charles Napier had his statue paid for by the squaddies of the British Army, but the sculptor of King George IV’s statue Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey who had expected to receive £9,000 for his efforts, with the King promising to contribute one-third, died before receiving a penny.
So what does Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock mean? Well, it’s about as meaningless to 21st century Londoners as his equestrian companions he shares on this most famous plaza.
It might be a version of the French national symbol taunting Britain’s national hero, killed by the Frenchies at his moment of victory, or a statement about masculinity in all its absurdness.
But for me it’s just an incredibly stupid-looking farmyard animal painted in a beautiful blue and put there for no reason what so ever. Which among all London’s public statues, many of which we know nothing or care less about their identity, makes a refreshing change, and its intrinsic comedy makes me smile every time I pass.