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Giant French rooster ruffles London feathers

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-26

Some Londoners are dismayed by the unveiling of a classic French emblem in the capital’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday. The cockerel is a symbol of France - and the artist behind "Cock” intended the sexual double entendre.

London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday will see the unveiling of a giant blue cockerel (rooster) as a temporary artwork on the square’s formerly empty “fourth plinth”.

When the 4.7 metre electric blue sculpture - titled “Hahn/Cock” – was announced in May it caused some upset among conservation groups.

The Thorney Island Society, which fights to protect London’s landmarks, launched a planning complaint against the installation when it was announced in May, calling it “totally inappropriate” and “nothing but a feeble distraction”

“We cannot see any logical reason for the proposed sculpture to be placed on the fourth plinth,” the society wrote in it’s application to have the installation blocked. “It is unrelated to the context of Trafalgar Square.”

The famed square is dominated by the statue of British war hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, an effigy of whom stands at the top of a 52 metre column in the middle of the square, and named after a British victory over the French. Nelson led the British fleet that decisively beat the French Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He was killed in the climax of the battle.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of the Westminster Council, told London’s Evening Standard: “I’m sure if this gets planning permission, it will cause quite a stir, particularly because it will be placed under the gaze of Admiral Lord Nelson ... I do wonder what Nelson’s reaction would have been after returning home from battle only to be greeted by the French emblem standing proudly in the centre of London.'

Deliberate double entendre

Not only is the cockerel France’s national symbol, but German artist Katharina Fritsch admits her sculpture’s title (“hahn”, German for “cock”, carries the same double meaning as in English) is a deliberate play on words.

"It's a nice humorous side-effect to have something French in a place that celebrates victory over Napoleon," she told the Guardian newspaper.

As for the sexual double entendre, she said of Trafalgar Square: "It's about male posing, about showing power, about showing … erections! I mean, look at that column!"
Fritsch’s Cock will stand proud in Trafalgar Square for 18 months.

The “fourth plinth” was originally intended to support a statue of William IV of England on horseback, but the sculpture was never completed and the plinth remained empty for 150 years.

In 1999 a series of temporary artworks were exhibited, and the plinth is now a permanent exhibition stand for contemporary artworks which are changed every 18 months.

Date created : 2013-07-25

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