Mark Wallinger

Posted on June 14, 2011


Mark Wallinger (born 1959) is a British artist, best known for his sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, Ecce Homo (1999), and State Britain (2007), a recreation at Tate Britain of Brian Haw’s protest display outside parliament. He won the Turner Prize in 2007.[1] In October 2010 he and 100 other leading artists signed an open letter to the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt protesting against cutbacks in the arts – he created a new work, “Reckless”, for the protest.

Wallinger’s early work is noted for its social commentary, often focusing on class (social), royalty and nationalism. These works are often paintings, although by the 1990s he was beginning to use a wider range of techniques, which have continued to feature in his work since.

In 1991, Wallinger exhibited a series of full length portrait paintings of the homeless called “Capital” at the ICA in London that were bought by Charles Saatchi and later exhibited at his gallery along with Wallinger’s life size paintings of racehorses. Some commentators found “Capital” patronizing – especially as the models were recognisable figures from the London art world – and that by allowing himself to be bought by Saatchi that Wallinger was selling out. These accusations had some effect on Wallinger and the direction of his later work.

Up to 1995 sport as a nexus for English national obsessions was a frequent topic of his work. In 1994 Wallinger appropriated an entire international football match at Wembley Stadium by being photographed with a large Union Jack banner with his name emblazoned on it. As a state flag the Union Flag has superiority to the Cross of St. George that most England football team fans display.

His 1995 Turner Prize nomination was largely thanks to his work of the previous year, A Real Work Of Art. This was actually a racehorse, which the racing fan Wallinger had bought and named “A Real Work Of Art” with a view to entering it in races and therefore causing this “art” to be piped into bookmakers up and down the country. It would thus be a further development of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. As things turned out, however, the horse was injured, and only ran one race.

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