David Shrigley’s Giant Public Artwork Gives Londoners a Much-Needed Thumbs Up

Can the thumb send a welcoming post-Brexit message?

David Shrigley,Really Good, the new Fourth Plinth sculpture, after its unveiling in Trafalgar Square in central London on September 29, 2016. Courtesy of Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.
David Shrigley,Really Good, the new Fourth Plinth sculpture, after its unveiling in Trafalgar Square in central London on September 29, 2016. Courtesy of Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley’s new public artwork was unveiled September 29 in London’s Trafalgar Square. Really Good, a monumental bronze hand making a thumbs-up gesture, is the 2016 Fourth Plinth commission.

The nearly 23-foot-tall sculpture—the tallest ever for Fourth Plinth—was dramatically revealed, with crowds counting down to the moment that the black cloth covering it was finally removed. The sculpture is “about making the world a better place…which obviously is a ridiculous proposition, but I think it’s a good proposition,” Shrigley told those gathered for the occasion, according to the Telegraph.

“What it represents is so important—optimism, positivity, the best of us. This sculpture is so important showing Londoners, tourists, that London is open,” added London mayor Sadiq Khan. It’s a message the city is likely all the more eager to send given the UK’s recent Brexit vote to secede from the European Union.

Shrigley’s project for the annual art installation was announced back in February 2014, along with Hans Haacke’s 2015 piece, Gift Horse. It has already proven divisive, with the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones writing that “I honestly can’t see this gleefully ugly work of art spreading a lot of cheer,” and slamming the “surreal monstrosity of the hugely deformed thumb.”

Trafalgar Square hosts three other plinths, which hold memorial sculptures; the fourth plinth was built in 1841, but there wasn’t enough money to produce the equestrian statue of William IV that was originally intended for display there, so the pedestal remained empty for over 150 years.

A promotional image for David Shrigley's Fourth Plinth statue, <em>Really Good</em>. Courtesy of Fourth Plinth.

A promotional image for David Shrigley’s Fourth Plinth statue, Really Good. Courtesy of Fourth Plinth.

The Royal Society of Arts introduced a program bringing temporary contemporary installations to the plinth in 1999, and the program has been run by the Greater London Authority since 2005.

Previous Fourth Plinth commissions have included German artist Katharina Fritsch’s bright blue rooster sculpture Hahn/Cock in 2014, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle in 2010, and Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant in 2005.

British artist David Shrigley poses for a photograph in front of his new Fourth Plinth sculpture, <em>Really Good</em>, after its unveiling in Trafalgar Square in central London on September 29, 2016. Courtesy of Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

British artist David Shrigley poses for a photograph in front of his new Fourth Plinth sculpture, Really Good, after its unveiling in Trafalgar Square in central London on September 29, 2016. Photo Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.


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