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Why I still can't stand the fourth plinth | Jonathan Jones

The fatuous nature of the Trafalgar Square contest has been exposed by the fact that even the artists vying for this year's slot seem embarrassed

The fourth plinth has outlasted any excitement it originally caused. It has become a chore. The current exhibition of hopefuls for the next commission in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields has something Mannerist about it. The artists seem gripped by self-consciousness, embarrassed to be even entering this daft contest. Brian Griffiths' giant brick Battenberg is the work of an interesting sculptor who really does not appear to find putting his work on a block in Trafalgar Square at all exhilarating. All the other artists seem similarly indifferent, desperate, or bored. An overwhelming silliness prevails.

For what it's worth, Katharina Kritsch has come up with by far the best idea. Even as a maquette, her blue cockerel has an ineffably surreal quality. It deserves to be chosen – but I still don't much care. Nor will anyone else, once the media hoo-ha and ritual fuss is over with. Does anyone actually care about the ship in a bottle that currently stands there?

The fatuous nature of the whole event has been exposed, surely, by the acclaim for Jeremy Deller's Iraq war relic at the Imperial War Museum. This serious work of art began as a rejected proposal for the fourth plinth. Surely the fact that such a genuinely significant work of art was excluded invalidates any claim that the space matters.

There was one work here, of course, that made a huge "impact". Indeed, Antony Gormley's One and Other is now a blockbuster souvenir book. It certainly claimed the plinth for itself, and probably in a way that dooms all future efforts here. Was it good art? I don't think so, and I don't think it was a very rich or enlightening portrait of Britain either, but that's besides the point. It worked in the setting. By comparison, any object placed on the plinth is going to look tame – unless it is obscene, perhaps, but that is no more likely than the arbiters selecting a savage piece of war art.

The current proposals, overshadowed by Gormley's people, invite a populist campaign that I predict will emerge in 2011 for a new edition of One and Other, to give even more folk the chance to stand on a plinth. Fine. Perhaps then we can forget about the fourth plinth, and move on to more interesting locations and possibilities for public art.


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