So, it has begun. Yesterday morning at 9 of the clock, the first "living statue" clambered up the plinth in Trafalgar Square in London. Antony Gormley - the architect of the project - says that the intention is to portray the nation in an up-to-date version of how painters like Gainsborough and Reynolds showed it; the difference being that in the nineteenth century it was the landed gentry - the ruling classes - who personified the nation: now it is the ordinary "man-in-the-street."
I would have loved to apply for a slot - thousands did apparently - but a) could I clamber up - I doubt it and b) I suffer from vertigo - could I last an hour at that height. Gormley will no doubt be pleased that the plinth was hi-jacked by an anti-smoking campaigner before it got started. That's what it is all about.
People's reasons for wanting an hour slot standing in the open air in the nation's favourite meeting place are interesting -
""I don't imagine it will be easy or comfortable. The idea that captivated me was celebrating humanity through the ordinary and everyday in us, letting the light shine through the cracks", said a 42 year old man from Derby.
"I want to give my grandson something to remember," said a 54 year old Londoner, holding up a placard saying 'I am not a pigeon.'"
And the lady in the picture? She is a housewife aged 35 from Lincolnshire.
Although I don't think you can see the project as in any way "profound", it is sure to be a popular one as the tourist season gets into full swing. Rachel Campbell-Johnston, writing in The Times this morning, reminds us that the fourth plinth is "as much about the debate that takes place around it as it is about the art work on the top."
I love the idea. She says she feels that Gormley is still in control and that the plinthers will be seen as "Gorms" (the nickname of the figurines in the sea off Crosby - if you don't know about those go to Art Propelled where Robyn has an excellent post on the artist.)
Is it art? What do you think?