Home Arts Statue of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing proposed for London’s fourth plinth

Statue of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing proposed for London’s fourth plinth

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A British government minister has proposed erecting a statue of Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, a high profile platform for contemporary art commissions in recent years.

Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, made the suggestion in the House of Commons earlier this week in response to an independent review focusing on the experiences of LGBTQ veterans who served between 1967 and 2000 when homosexuality in the military was illegal.

Wallace: “If I think what the base has… [Trafalgar Square] should be full of, the empty plinth, (with) the mayor’s gadgets or whatever every five minutes, it should be Dr. Turing.

A hero of the war, Turing successfully decoded German messages with the Bomb, his machine designed to break Enigma-encrypted messages. But, after being dishonored by a 1952 “gross indecency” conviction for homosexuality and forced chemical castration, Turing is believed to have taken his own life in 1954.

Wallace added: “Dr Turing was probably the greatest war hero, in my book, of World War II. His achievements shortened the war, saved thousands of lives, helped defeat the Nazis. And his story is a sad story of a society and how they treated him.

However according to New rosesWallace voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2013. The following year he voted against extending marriage rights to members of the armed forces outside the UK.

Contributors on social media hailed Wallace’s proposal with one Twitter commenter saying, “The way he [Turing] was treated for being gay is devastating. He was remarkable. A petition calling for an effigy of Turing to be placed in Trafalgar Square was started in 2012; it attracted 57 signatures.

Meanwhile, the debate over whether to use the plinth for a statue of the late Queen Elizabeth II continues. It was widely believed that the plinth, left empty when Trafalgar Square was created, was reserved for an equestrian statue of the Queen after her death.

The Fourth Plinth program was launched in 1998 by the RSA (the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) with support from the Cass Sculpture Foundation. Thirteen artists, including Yinka Shonibare, Rachel Whiteread and Mark Wallinger, have exhibited works on the plinth since the contemporary art initiative launched in 1999. Samson Kambalu’s sculpture Anteloperepresenting John Chilembwe who died fighting British rule, is to remain in place until 2024.

Antelope is to remain in situ until 2024, followed by 50 prints (850 prints) by Teresa Margolles, which will feature casts of the faces of 850 trans people from London and around the world presented in a form inspired by Mesoamerican sculptures.

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