Right-wingers rage at transgender artwork planned for London’s Trafalgar Square

'Improntas (Imprint)' by artist Teressa Margolles features face casts of 850 trans people.

The forthcoming arrival of a trans-focused art piece at Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth has left various right-wing news outlets “outraged” about the installation, funded by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan.

‘Improntas’ (Imprints) artwork, casts of 850 trans people’s faces by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, will be installed this year, but was originally announced back in 2021.

Despite the fact that information about the piece has been publicly available for years, the high-profile contemporary art commission has suddenly drawn outrage from right-wing commenters.

‘Outrage’ over ‘woke’ Fourth Plinth trans-focused art

Right-wing news outlet GB News criticised Sadiq Khan for approving what they called a “woke artwork that pays tribute to trans sex workers.”

Others have claimed that Khan is “trying to destroy British culture” with the sculpture at the Fourth Plinth after Sadiq Khan supposedly “blocked” a statue of the late Queen.

GB News reported that “campaigners” had been hoping for a statue of the late monarch to be erected on the plinth instead. However, Khan’s office said in comment to Fox News Digital that the mayor is not neglecting the installation of a statue of the queen, and that any such suggestion is “false and misleading.” 

“The Mayor fully supports a fitting memorial to the late Queen and has not blocked this process whatsoever. Any suggestion this is the case is false and misleading,” the mayor’s office added. 

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The Fourth Plinth is the location for temporary art commissioned by the Mayor’s office. The Fourth Plinth competition is funded by the Mayor of London, alongside support from Arts Council England and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

A giant ice cream van and an enormous sweet potato are among the artworks currently being considered for the plinth in Trafalgar Square. Seven artists have been shortlisted, and the two who are chosen will see their works displayed on the Fourth Plinth in 2026 and 2028.

The winners are picked by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, partly based on feedback from the public.

What is ‘Improntas’?

Margolles’ 850 ‘Improntas’ (850 Imprints) consists of plaster casts of the faces of hundreds of trans people from London and around the world.

The art installation will feature 850 imprints, described as “life masks,” that will surround the plinth.

Their arrangement will form a tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilisations that was often used to display the remains of sacrifice victims or prisoners of war.

'Improntas (Imprint)' by artist Teressa Margolles on display at the National Gallery.
‘Improntas (Imprint)’ by artist Teressa Margolles on display at the National Gallery. (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Who is Teresa Margolles?

The 61-year-old conceptual artist and photographer is known for her work surrounding social issues.

Margolles’ Trafalgar Square sculpture evokes the observation of overlooked individuals, may of them sex workers.

Due to London’s notoriously bad weather, Margolles has noted that there’s an expectation over the course of the six months the casts are on display, they will disintegrate.

If they do wear down from the rain, it will leave behind a sort of “anti-monument” and ‘Improntas’ takes on a new form. 

When the art commission was announced back in 2021, Ekow Eshun, the chair of the fourth plinth commissioning group, told the Guardian that they received the most public votes of all time.

“This year was an incredibly strong shortlist from six incredibly exciting contemporary artists,” Eshun said.

“I am thrilled at the outcome and very much looking forward to seeing the new works on the plinth.”

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