London mayor overlooks late Queen Elizabeth II to approve transgender sex workers sculpture

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

London’s left-wing mayor Sadiq Khan has resisted calls to commission a statue commemorating the late Queen Elizabeth II in favor of approving £1 million in funding to erect a sculpture depicting the faces of hundreds of transgender sex workers on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The sculpture, created by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles and named Improntas, features plaster casts of 850 transgender people, many of whom were prostitutes, and was designed to draw attention to the marginalization of the trans community.

The casts are placed on top of one another to create a cuboid, and the work is inspired by the ancient inhabitants of the Mesoamerican region who used to display the heads of ritual sacrifices and enemies in skull racks.

The sculpture will not just include casts of the transgender people to whom it is dedicated, but will also be “infused with their hair and skin cells” and is designed to deteriorate as it is exposed to the elements, creating an “anti-monument.”

The artwork was reportedly approved by the London mayor’s office last month with £1 million in taxpayer cash being used to fund its production and erection.

A YouGov survey conducted back in 2021 when the artwork was first shortlisted revealed its unpopularity among Londoners. Just 23 percent of respondents said they liked the piece, while nearly twice as many (42 percent) said they disliked it.

The artwork was the second least popular among the six sculptures shortlisted, beaten in its dislike only by Nicole Eisenman’s “The Jewellery Tree,” a bizarre monument with a plastic coffee lid, some disused Scotch tape, and a crushed beer can hanging from its branches.

Margolles’ work is expected to go on display in September.

Sculptures on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square are currently installed on a rotating basis and remain on display for two years after being selected by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group.

Former Labour mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said back in 2013 that it was the “understanding that the Fourth Plinth is being reserved for Queen Elizabeth II” upon her death, which came to pass in September 2022.

The Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee has been established to ensure Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is commemorated appropriately, and the Fourth Plinth has been earmarked as a potential location for a statue in memory of her.

However, the plinth will not be free until 2030 at the earliest, with other selected winning artworks already reserved for the years ahead.

Despite overlooking the former monarch this time around, a spokesperson for the London mayor insisted that Sadiq Khan remains dedicated to honoring Queen Elizabeth.

“The mayor wants to ensure we have a fitting memorial to our longest-serving monarch,” they said.

“He supports the creation of the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee, which is being supported by the Royal Household and chaired by the former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II.

“The mayor stands ready to support the recommendations of the committee, whatever they are,” they added.

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