A sculpture of a strutting horse skeleton was unveiled in London’s main Trafalgar Square on Thursday — wearing a London Stock Exchange prices ticker in an allusion to the City’s financial power.
Entitled “Gift Horse”, the riderless bronze sculpture, by 78-year-old German-US artist Hans Haacke, is in residence on the empty fourth plinth in the British capital’s central square.
An electronic ribbon tied to its right front leg displays a live ticker of stock prices, “completing the link between power, money and history”, according to London Mayor Boris Johnson’s office.
It is derived from an etching by English painter George Stubbs (1724-1806), whose works depicted horses in a much more accurate way than had been achieved before.
Johnson unveiled the sculpture.
“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,” he said.
“‘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.”
New York-based Haacke’s statue replaces German artist Katharina Fritsch’s huge fibreglass blue cockerel “Hahn/Cock”, which has stood on the plinth since July 2013.
Trafalgar Square is named after the British naval victory over the French and Spanish fleets at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, a key conflict in the Napoleonic Wars.
There are large stone plinths in each corner of the square, three of which bear statues.
The fourth was built in 1841 to hold a statue of king William IV on a horse, but it was never completed due to insufficient funds.
Since 1998 the plinth has been used to showcase temporary pieces of art, and has so far hosted works including a giant ship in a bottle and a huge nude statue of the English artist Alison Lapper, who was born without arms, during her pregnancy.
In 2016, “Gift Horse” will be replaced by British visual artist David Shrigley’s 10-metre high bronze thumbs-up gesture, entitled “Really Good”.