For Londoners who witness the cyclical unveilings of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, the ritual of revealing sculpture seems more than ever invested with political opportunism, divided responses, misunderstanding and anachronism.
This lecture asks what kinds of negotiations were involved and performed in the - much rarer and slower - ‘discoverings’ of Renaissance statuary, works whose civic significance were similarly contested. Attending to the fraught process of monumental sculpture’s emergence into the piazza, Professor Wright investigates the politics and changing rituals involved in making sculpture public in the Early Modern period. How visible was the act of making? What was at stake in the move from the sculptors’ yard or courtyard to the square? What could go wrong, for whom and how were such risks mitigated?
By analysing representations of statuary in public space, whether in early sources or, anachronistically, in film, this lecture aims to discover some of the conflicting beliefs, the social and spatial practices out of which the liminal ritual we now call ‘unveiling’ developed.
Lecturer: Professor Alison Wright, Head of Department, UCL History of Art
Inaugural lectures are an opportunity for recently-promoted professors to exhibit to the wider UCL community, and the public outside UCL, a flavour of their intellectual activity and research. Each lecture is followed by a drinks reception, to which all attendees are warmly invited.