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The 4th Plinth

Fourth Plinth’s latest is a failure, says Maria Fusco

Model for a Hotel 2007, by Thomas Schütte, Trafalgar Square, London, until May 2009

German artist Thomas Schütte’s Model for a Hotel 2007 in London’s Trafalgar Square is a glassy disappointment, succeeding only in referencing the scaffolding on the nearby spire of St Martin-in-the-Fields by asking to be looked through, rather than looked at.

The latest in a series of commissioned sculptural works for the Fourth Plinth, the sculpture is a rhomboid architectural model of a 21-storey building, constructed in specially engineered red, yellow and blue glass, and weighing over eight tonnes. Schütte’s use of colour in an area so densely dominated in stoney taupe, is in itself a welcome gesture, declaring the potential for a visual disruption of weighty historical urban space. This, together with a horizontal bias of its construction, could have favourably set Schütte’s contribution apart from its four monochromatic predecessors. However, when I saw the work, daylight was fading and even the glare of a trained spotlight couldn’t penetrate or activate the glass sheets. Rather, their opaque density appeared to be sucking in the light and snuffing it out.

Perhaps the weight of history around Trafalgar Square is unfairly set against Schütte’s work. Previous sculptures have been much more self-reflexive in their stratagems (such as Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant) by relying upon the subversion or reworking of traditional figurative sculpture, positioning creative and political imperatives upon the materiality of the disused plinth.

Model for a Hotel 2007 refers to something that is outside of itself (in that it is referred to as a ‘model’), and thus distances its audience from a contemporary experience of history.

Resume: Fourth Plinth’s new sculpture is a mediocre piece of Schütte’s

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