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This is the tragic and inspiring story behind the new artwork on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth

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Harvey Day
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This is the tragic and inspiring story behind the new artwork on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth

Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth has become one of the UK’s best known and most important spots for celebrating new and exciting artwork. Since 2007, the platform has been home to Marc Quinn’s nude Alison Lapper Pregnant statue, 2,400 members of the public for Antony Gormley’s interactive performance art and Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue cockerel.

And the latest masterpiece to take a turn on the plinth is a mammoth recreation of an ancient stature destroyed by ISIS in 2015.

The statue, called The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, is the work of Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz.

The original statue was a lamassu – a winged bull with a human face – that stood at the gates of the ancient Iraqi city of Nineveh, near the modern-day city of Mosul, for more than a thousand years. But then, in February 2015, ISIS militants filmed themselves drilling off the faces of these artefacts. As explained in the latest series of the BBC’s Civilisations, a huge amount of Iraqi and Syrian history has been destroyed in recent years.

And it has special significance to the artist Michael Rakowitz, 44, whose family left Iraq in 1946.

“I think the impetus to rebuild is indicative of something good in the human spirit but I think of the things that I make as being ghosts or apparitions of what the artefacts were,” he said, according to the Evening Standard.

The sculpture is 4.5 metres high, took four months to build and is made up of 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans – symbolising one of the country’s former thriving industries shattered by war.

It weighs 6,000kgs and is held together by 39,500 rivets.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who officially unveiled the sculpture, said: “I am delighted to unveil this new work by Michael Rakowitz, the next sculpture to be featured on the Fourth Plinth – the world’s most famous public art platform.

“Michael’s work shows the power of art to bring to life politics, cultures and personal stories from around the world and across generations.”

(Image: Getty)