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Mark Wallinger
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Mark Wallinger

Mark Wallinger (born 1959) is a British artist, best known for his sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, Ecce Homo (1999).

Born in Chigwell, Wallinger studied at first in Chelsea and later at Goldsmith's College. He exhibited throughout the 1980s, and later showed work in the Young British Artists II show at Charles Saatchi's gallery in 1993 and at the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997. In 2000 a retrospective of his work, Credo, was exhibited at Tate Liverpool.

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.

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.

Wallinger's later work appears to have largely turned away from his earlier preoccupations, instead apparently focusing on religion and death. No Man's Land, a show at the Whitechapel Gallery included several works on these subjects. Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), for example, is a slow motion video of people coming through automatic double doors at international arrivals at an airport. The video is accompanied by a recording of the famous Miserere by Gregorio Allegri. Wallinger has said that the title might be taken as a double meaning: arrival at the United Kingdom, but also at the kingdom of heaven, with a security guard playing the part of St. Peter.

As well as traditional relgion, Wallinger's work has sometimes referenced myths. Ghost (2001) is a negative print of George Stubbs' famous horse painting Whistlejacket that has had a horn added to its head, thus turning it into a unicorn. Time and Relative Dimensions in Space (2001) takes a more modern myth as its subject - it is a life-sized mirrored model of the TARDIS from Dr. Who which at certain angles seems to blend into its environment.

The largest work in the No Man's Land show was Prometheus. This piece is in two parts - on the outside, in a dark corridor, is a video of Wallinger (or rather his alter-ego, "Blind Faith") sat in an electric chair and singing Ariel's song from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. From the corridor, automatic double doors give access to a brightly lit room which has an electric chair bolted to one of the walls, giving a top-down "God's-eye view" of it. On two facing walls are large photos of fists with the words "LOVE" and "HATE" written on them, a reference to the preacher played by Robert Mitchum in the film, The Night of the Hunter, who had similar tattoos on his knuckles. A circular steel loop gives out a continuous buzzing sound.

Ecco Homo remains Wallinger's best known and most public work. The first work to occupy the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, it is a life-sized statue of a Christ figure, naked apart from a loin cloth, and with his hands bound behind his back. He wears a crown of barbed wire. The sculpture was placed at the very front edge of the massive plinth, emphasising its vulnerability and relative smallness. It was quite popular with the public, and was later shown at the Venice Biennale in 2001, where Wallinger was Britain's representative.