The lions in Trafalgar Square in London will get get a strange and powerful companion that is part lion, part bull, and part eagle, when the Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz unveils his Fourth Plinth commission on Wednesday, March 28.
Rakowitz has recreated a full-scale version of the sculpture of a Lamassu, a protective deity which guarded the Nergal Gate at the entrance of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh for more than a millennium. The winged creature stood fast from 700BC until 2015, when it was destroyed by Daesh after the Islamist extremists gained control of the site near Mosul in northern Iraq.
Rakowitz’s Lamassu will stand on the plinth for two years until March 2020, the 12th work in a series of temporary commissions that began in 1998 and have included work by Rachel Whiteread, Elmgreen & Dragset, Yinka Shonibare and Mark Wallinger.
His contemporary take on the human-headed deity with wings is part of a project the artist started in 2006, called The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist. The series sees him reconstruct Iraqi artifacts that have been listed as as missing, stolen, destroyed, or having unknown status since the US-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. “It’s a commitment,” Rakowitz told artnet News, “and it’s one that will outlive me and my studio, unfortunately, because there are over 8,000 artifacts that are still missing from the Iraq Museum alone.”