Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock, 2013
Not before time, thinking about Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant brings me back to London and to the oversized cock that is Katharina Fritsch’s work for the fourth plinth: Cock (or Hahn/Cock to give it its full German and English title). Of all the works yet to grace the plinth, and there have been some great ones, some less great ones and one that seemed to make it rain all summer*, I think Hahn/Cock is probably the one that has amused me the most. In the damp greyness of this less than satisfactory winter, it stands proud on the plinth ready to make people chuckle.
It’s big. It’s blue. It’s a cock. What’s not to smile at?
There are all sorts of reasons to enjoy this work. The sculpture is unmistakably a cockerel but there is an element of unfamiliarity that comes from its scale – it stands 4.7m tall – and colour – a brilliant blue, reminiscent of Yves Klein. The work punctures the formality of the square and mocks the display of masculinity of the existing statuary in the square – a bastion of male power with reminders of Britain’s military history at every turn – to the joyful confusion of explaining that there is a big cock in Trafalgar Square and not just any old big cock but a big blue cock. There are many references that can be unpicked here about the feminist nature of the work, the challenge to both art historical norms and to the power politics involved in public statuary and so on, but for me its success lies in its humour. Fritsch is simultaneously – and deliberately – making a political point and giving us something to laugh at.
And of course there’s amusement to be found in googling the work and finding pictures and, better still, video, of Boris Johnson at the unveiling of the work, images that always make me think “ah yes, a cock in Trafalgar Square”.
* Antony Gormley, I’m looking at you (or at all those people you got to stand there doing, I can only assume, invisible rain dances of some sort).