Freddie on the Plinth is a tribute to two people with an unlikely but beautiful connection: the legendary rock star Freddie Mercury (b 1946 – d 1991) and a Czech sculptor called Irena Sedlecka (b 1928). As a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Sedlecka was awarded the State Prize for excellence and thereafter created many socialist realist large-scale commissions before fleeing the Communist regime for England in 1966. It was in London, after Freddie’s death from AIDS in 1991, where she received the commission to create a larger-than-life memorial statue in bronze of the rock star.
At that time, 20 years ago, the remaining members of Queen and the executors of Freddie’s estate decided to commission the memorializing bronze statue as the whereabouts of Freddie’s ashes was a closely guarded secret. The statue depicts him at the height of his rock-star power performing at Wembley Stadium, his body in full-stretch rock exuberance, triumphantly gesturing towards an imaginary sea of mesmerized fans. Facing the statue, it is as if you can hear the crowds screaming, the band playing and Freddie’s heart beating – a living spirit captured in bronze by a sculptor at the height of her powers.
Despite the statue’s excellence, Freddie’s enormous contribution to music and the love of his many fans in the UK and worldwide, it was rejected by Westminster Council amidst rumours about homophobia, fear of AIDS and vandalism. Numerous attempts to place the statue on public view elsewhere in London failed and a permanent home for it was never found. Instead, the work was offered to the city of Montreux, Switzerland where the band kept a recording studio, where Freddie had found a retreat from the paparazzi and where the gift was welcomed with open arms. So the statue, with its bursting energy and urban soul was placed facing the quiet and calm waters of Lake Geneva. It has since become a site of pilgrimage for fans from all over the world who gather here every year to mark Freddie’s birthday.
Freddie on the Plinth is also an independent, unsolicited proposal to bring the statue of Freddie Mercury back to London, on loan from the city of Montreux for one year and to place it on the empty 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square: to honour both Freddie Mercury’s and Irena Sedlecka’s artistic legacies; as an exploration of the connections between socialist realism and glam rock; to contemplate the void created by all silences; and to channel love through the celebration and sheer expression of life.
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