The latest sculpture to grace the empty Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square has been unveiled today (28 March 2018).
Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, 44, has used the coveted commission to pay tribute to “something good in the human spirit”. His work, titled “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” is a life-size recreation of the lamassu, a mythical winged bull with the head of a man, that guarded the entrance to the ancient city of Nineveh from 700 B.C until 2015, when it was destroyed by ISIS.
The contemporary re-imagining of the ancient Assyrian statue is not an exact replica. The 4.5m high sculpture is constructed from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, symbolising the destruction of one of the country’s most important exports by the two Gulf wars.
An inscription written in Cuneiform, one of the earliest systems of writing, on the side of the Lamassu reads: “Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, had the inner and outer wall of Ninevah built anew and raised as high as mountains.”
The sculpture is part of an ambitious long term project by Rakowitz to reconstruct all 7000 objects known to be have been looted from the National Museum of Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. He has made 750 so far.
Rakowitz, who lives in Chicago, has never been to Iraq, but he is fascinated by the culture of a country where his family lived until 1946. He says he wanted the Trafalgar Square lamassu to represent the history of Iraq and its “complex” relationship with Britain, saying “It is traumatic and there are all different things that are part of that relationship but I’m not interested in doing work that is simple sloganeering so it is about the richness of that relationship despite all the traumas.”
This is the 12th sculpture to appear on the Fourth Plinth, and it will remain in place until March 2020.