HMS Victory returns to Trafalgar

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Yinka Shonibare's 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' unveiled for Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

Yesterday the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, unveiled the new commission for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, entitled 'Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle' by Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Until 1999, the Fourth Plinth in the square was left empty bearing no statue or sculpture, however The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group (a panel of artistic specialists) now monitor a programme of contemporary art commissions to fill the void at this popular tourist hotspot.

Shonibare’s 1:30 scale replica of the HMS Victory has been given a multicultural twist, as the 37 large sails have been designed using vibrantly patterned textiles, commonly associated with African dress and symbolic of African identity and independence. The artist explains: "London is such a diverse community, and art is a fantastic way to engage everyone regardless of race, class or gender. It is particularly great that this piece is an expression of Nelson's legacy, a legacy which has contributed to the diversity of this city." Today is Africa Unity Day (or African Liberation Day) so it seems fitting that Shonibare’s artwork encapsulates the importance of a hopeful and accepting multicultural society. The piece highlights elements of English and African national history, both intertwined with one another through British colonialism and its expansion of trade and Empire which was made possible through the freedom of the seas and new trade routes that Nelson’s victory provided.

Boris Johnson said: “The Fourth Plinth is about enigma and this will be a national conversation piece - people will ask what it says, is it pro-empire, is it anti-empire? This colourful and quirky take on our seafaring heritage provides a vivid contrast that intensifies the historic surroundings of Trafalgar Square.”

Sian Disson
Editorial Assistant

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