Five minutes before the official opening of Antony Gormley’s 100 day artwork One and Other – in which members of the public can spend an hour on the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, England with the aim of creating a “composite picture” of Britain in 2009, the event was hijacked by an anti-smoking campaigner. Boris Johnson, the London mayor, was ready to inaugurate the latest temporary artwork on to the plinth in the north-west corner of the square when a white-haired middle-aged man, running too fast for all four of the large security guards nearby made his way along the top of the railing that runs through the square.
He jumped from the balustrade and got a hold of the safety netting strung around the plinth and lifted himself up, for a moment hanging precariously upside down. Then he was up, making a spectacle of himself to unfurl a poster reading: “Ban tobacco and actors smoking. One billion deaths this century!”
While mayor and artist carried on with the ceremony, they interspersed their speeches with requests for the publicity stuntman to get down and out of the way. Gormley asked the protester Stuart Holmes: “I hope you’ll have the grace to give up your place to Rachel, the real first person on the plinth. You are the warm-up act …”
Holmes shouted back: “Give me a mic.” Gormley responded: “You should have brought your own! That’s the rules!”
This incident shows how again the best laid (and protected) plans of influential men can be hijacked quite easily by determined lone protestors and / or marketing stuntmen.