Michael Rakowitz is an American artist of Iraqi-Jewish origin. The sculpture recently unveiled at the Fourth Plinth – The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist – is in fact the reproduction of an Assyrian lammasu that was destroyed by ISIS soldiers when the Mosul Museum was looted in 2015.

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (2018), Michael Rakowitz The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (2018), Michael Rakowitz. ARR.

A winged bull with a man’s head, the lammasu, playing a key role in Assyrian culture, is one of the best-known creatures in the Mesopotamian bestiary. The original work was produced in 700 B.C. to decorate the entrance to Nergal Gate in Nineveh, near Mosul.

Michael Rakowitz Michael Rakowitz in front of his model for Fourth Plinth. ARR.

In order to recreate the lammasu, Michael Rakowitz recycled 10,500 used date-syrup cans. A choice to showcase an emblematic product from the Iraqi region, exported worldwide in large quantities prior to the start of the war in 2003. The work’s many motifs refer to the movements of goods and populations, propelled across the planet by events.

Michael Rakowitz Michael Rakowitz. ARR.

The Fourth Plinth lammasu is in fact only part of a far vaster project, also titled The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist. Indeed, Michael Rakowitz plans to recreate the 7,000 works of art that were destroyed in Mosul in 2015. All this, solely using recycled materials – as if making a nod to the legend of the Phoenix. The work will stay on the site until March 2020 when the space will be handed over to a creation by Heather Phillipson: The End.

Study past Fourth Plinth submissions on London’s official website.