Mexican artist who shines bloody light on drug violence on fourth plinth shortlist

Teresa Margolles one of six Trafalgar Square contenders to make ‘strikingly international’ list

A Mexican artist whose work powerfully and sometimes bloodily shines light on the violence of drug-related organised crime in her country has been shortlisted to produce work for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Organisers of one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary public art commissions revealed a shortlist of six artists. Two will be chosen and announced in the summer, with their work unveiled in 2022 en 2024.

Teresa Margolles is one of the six, along with Nicole Eisenman, Samson Kambalu, Goshka Macuga, Ibrahim Mahama and Paloma Varga Weisz.

Announcing the names, the mayor of Londen, Sadiq Khan, said the list of artists was strikingly international. “The fourth plinth is one of the flagship contemporary art commissions in the world and I look forward to seeing how these artists will transform it.”

Tantalisingly, organisers have not revealed what the artists are proposing for the spot currently occupied by a giant dollop of fly-infested, cherry-topped whipped cream. Heather Phillipson’s The End was unveiled in July and has a live surveillance feed of the people around it. At the moment, that is mostly no one.

The new proposals from the six artists will be revealed in late May when they go on display at the National Gallery.

Margolles is a particularly intriguing choice of artist to be shortlisted. She represented Mexico at the 2009 Venice Biennale where the marbled floors of a Venetian palace were swabbed with the diluted blood of gang war victims. She also won the Cardiff-based Artes Mundi prize in 2012, displaying works at the National Museum of Art that included bloody floor tiles she took from the building where a friend was murdered. Also on display was water used to clean bodies in a morgue, dripping and sizzling on hotplates. A third work had sounds from a murder victim’s autopsy.

Two of the artists on the shortlist are based in the UK. Kambala, born in Malawi, lives and works in Oxford, where he is associate professor of fine art at the Ruskin. In 2016 the Guardian praised his “terrific little films in which almost nothing happens, again and again”, which were a highlight of the 2016 Liverpool Biennial.

Macuga, a Polish artist who lives and works in London, was shortlisted for the Turner prize in 2008, exhibiting elegant sculptures that one critic admired, but thought looked like airport handrails.

Mahama, who lives and works in Ghana, his country of birth, is known for giving found materials new meaning. At White Cube last year he displayed paintings made from jute sacks used in Ghana’s cocoa industry.

The German artist Varga Weisz, based in Düsseldorf, produces figurative sculptures using traditional techniques such as woodcarving.

Eisenman, who lives and works in New York and established herself as a figurative painter before expanding in to the third dimension, completes the shortlist.

Organisers said the public would be invited to have their say, informing a judging panel chaired by Ekow Eshun, and which includes the artist Jeremy Deller and newsreader Jon Snow.

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