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American artist Tschabalala Self has been named the next artist to showcase her sculpture on London’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Set for unveiling in 2026, Self’s installation promises to ignite the imagination and stir the soul of onlookers from across the globe.

A maquette of the work that will be placed on the Fourth Plinth in 2026. Photographer: James O Jenkins

Her selection for this esteemed honour came after rigorous deliberation by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, led by the respected writer and curator Ekow Eshun. Chosen from a select group of seven talented artists, Self’s vision stood out for its depth, relevance, and resonance with the public.

Hailing from the vibrant artistic hub of New York, Self is renowned for her powerful depictions of female figures. Her winning creation, “Lady in Blue,” is a poignant tribute to the contemporary woman of colour navigating the bustling metropolis. Inspired by the everyday experiences of modern Londoners, Self’s sculpture embodies the spirit of resilience, ambition, and inclusivity.

In her artist statement, Self elucidates that “Lady in Blue” is not merely a statue but a symbol of our shared aspirations for equity and recognition. Through its portrayal of a young metropolitan woman, the sculpture becomes a catalyst for dialogue and introspection, inviting viewers to contemplate the diverse narratives that shape our collective identity.

Crafted from bronze and adorned with a patina of Lapis Lazuli blue, Self’s sculpture pays homage to Trafalgar Square’s rich heritage while infusing it with a contemporary twist. The choice of Lapis Lazuli, a pigment steeped in historical significance, adds layers of depth and meaning to the artwork, connecting it to a lineage of artistic tradition that spans centuries and continents.

Self’s oeuvre, characterized by a blend of paint, fabric, and discarded materials, reflects her innovative approach to sculpture. She breathes life into her subjects with a vibrancy that is both palpable and profound. Born in New York in 1990, Self’s artistic journey is deeply rooted in the cultural tapestry of her hometown, infusing her work with a sense of authenticity and resonance.

As Self’s “Lady in Blue” prepares to take its rightful place on the Fourth Plinth in 2026, it joins a lineage of groundbreaking installations that have transformed Trafalgar Square into a global epicentre of contemporary art. With each new addition, the Fourth Plinth reaffirms its status as a beacon of creativity and expression, bridging the gap between the past and the present, the local and the global, in an ever-evolving tapestry of human experience.

The Fourth Plinth has gained international recognition as a platform for contemporary art since its inception 25 years ago. It is one of the most important art commissions worldwide, putting new work by internationally renowned artists into the heart of London. Previous installations include Mark Wallinger’s ‘Ecce Homo’ unveiled in 1999 and Samson Kambalu’s ‘Antelope’, currently in situ. 14 works have been displayed on the iconic site to date, 

Suzette Bell-Roberts is Co-founder and Digital Editor of ART AFRICA magazine.

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