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Chila Burman – one of seven artists vying for Fourth Plinth spot on National Gallery at Trafalgar Square

Chila Burman – one of seven artists vying for Fourth Plinth spot on National Gallery at Trafalgar Square

Earlier in the week, it was revealed what kind of work might occupy the iconic space in Trafalgar Square…

SEVEN artists have been shortlisted for the next Fourth Plinth commissions with the space to be filled in 2026 and 2028, respectively.

Among them is Chila Kumari Singh Burman, also known as Chila Burman, the Liverupdlian-Punjabi as she calls herself. The other international artists are Gabriel Chaile, Ruth Ewan, Thomas J Price; Veronica Ryan, Tschabalala Self and Andra Ursuja.

Gabriel Chaile, Ruth Ewan, Thomas J Price, Justine Simmons (Deputy Mayor of London Culture), Veronica Ryan, Ekow Eshun (chair of commissioning group), Chila Burman and Tschabalala Self

Their prospective works are now all on display as maquettes (in miniature type form) at the National Gallery and can be viewed for free by anyone until March 17. As this is managed by the Mayor of London’s office and is such a public work – it is asking you what you would like to see on the Fourth Plinth – there is a link to vote for your favourite work and tell the commissioning group why (See below) and do it by the deadline of March 12 (11.59pmGMT).

It is one of the most iconic public art spaces in the world – it is in Trafalgar Square and just beyond the National Gallery. It was first occupied by ‘Ecco Homo’ – a work by Mark Wallinger and was there from 1999. The current space is Samson Kambalu’s ‘Antelope’.

It is expected the announcement of the two selected artists will occur sometime before the exhibition is closed.

The works are

Chila Kumari Singh Burman – ‘The Smile You Send Returns to You

Chila Kumari Singh Burman and her maquette ‘The Smile You Send Returns to You

This is a work which those familiar with her oeuvre will recognise – both the ice cream van and the Bengal Tiger. Her late father ran an ice cream business in Liverpool and the van unusually had a Bengal Tiger on it. Hear what she has to say about it below… Burman was born in Liverpool and lives in London now.

Gabriel Chaile – ‘Hornero

Gabriel Chaile looks at his own Hornero

This celebrates the behaviour of Argentina’s national bird – the Rufus Hornero – which often builds nests on high surfaces including poles and monuments. Shaped like a nest, their nests resemble old wood burning stoves. Chaile was born in Argentina and lives in Bueonos Aires.

Ruth Ewan – ‘Believe in Discontent’

Ruth Ewan is just behind her work – ‘Believe in Discotent’

Looping back to the days of Suffragette Movement in London and the UK – Charlotte Despard addressed many a crowd in Trafalgar Square calling for women to get the vote. The figure of the black cat challenges the hierarchy of sculpture over ornament – you may have seen similar figures on domestic sideboards. Ewan also references the cat because the media at the time represented the Suffragette Movement as cats. Ewan was born in Glasgow and continues to work from there.

Thomas J Price – ‘Ancient Feelings’

This would be a monumental bronze sculpture of a fictional woman. Price was born in London and works from here. It’s an amalgmation faces drawn from historical times, rather than a particular person.

Veronica Ryan – ‘Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Not the Same

The humble sweet potato is an everyday object has made its way into Britain and reflects the global and everyday conversations folks have in Trafalgar Square – and where exchange of a different sort takes place. Ryan was born Monserrat and lives in London and New York.

Tschabalala Self – ‘Lady in Blue’

A sculpture represents a young metropolitan woman of colour and is inspired by the idea of bringing a contemporary ‘everywoman’ to Trafalgar Square. Born in New York, Self continues to live there. Self uses Lapis Lazuli blue, a rare and refined pigment that has been used since ancient times.

Andre Ursutja – ‘Untitled’

A hollow, life sized person is on a horse and covered in a shroud and cast in a slime-green resin. It embodies multiple histories of public sculpture and commemoration and looks to spark debate and inquiry about the use of public space. Romanian-born, Ursuja divides time between London and New York.

‘Improntas’ (‘Imprints’) the latest work to adorn the Fourth Plinth will go up from September 2024. Made by Teresa Margolles it references a transgender woman called Karla who was murdered in 2016 in Mexico and is a plaster casts of thousands of faces of hundreds of trans people and arranged around the plinth in the form of a Tzompantli – a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilisations.

Yesterday’s unveiling (February 19) saw Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery welcome the exhibition and urged people to see the work and tell the commission group which one they most liked.

(L-R) Dr Gabriele Finaldi, directot of The National Gallery, Ekow Eshun, chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group,
and Justine Simmons, Deputy Mayor of London, culture, creative industries and 24 hours London.

Justine Simmons OBE and deputy mayor for culture, creative industries and 24 hour London Team, also spoke and urged the public to get involved.

Ekow Eshun, chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: “There is an incredible group of works on show and we look forward to hearing the public’s thoughts on these proposals.”

Burman gave us a brief introduction at the press view morning on Monday (February 19)


All the works are engaging and thought-provoking – two are beautiful and have both a mesmerising and meditative effect – Price’s ‘Ancient Feelings’ and Self’s ‘Lady in Blue’. Ewan’s ‘Believe in Discontent’ doesn’t look loud enough for a public space and yet it is very precise and some people just go goeey when they see a good-looking cat and this is. It does have a quietly subversive flavour. ‘Hornero’ has a natural and basic beauty – reminding us that we are part of nature and it should not be our servant. ‘Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Not the Same’ is funny and brilliant and would puncture some of the pretentiousness art can inspire. We believe these artists were encouraged to think about the idea of being irreverent.
And finally – and yes, we are a little biased – Burman’s ‘The Smile You Send Returns to You’ – is funny, imaginative and eye-catching – it has even has its own soundtrack and rocket propulsion system…There’s a lot going on and very stimulating it is!


The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Open 10am-6pm daily, till 9pm Fridays
Link to vote –

There is also a QR code on each display – use your phone to access this.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture