Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare, MBE is a painstakingly crafted 1/30th replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory, the battleship on which he died during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. The artist calls a ship in a bottle ‘an object of wonder’ and this work has certainly captivated crowds, fast becoming a favourite among Londoners and visitors alike. In common with the original, it has 80 cannon and 37 sails set as on the day of battle. Materials include oak, hardwood, brass, twine and canvas.
Its richly patterned textiles – used for the sails – are of course a departure from the original. These were inspired by Indonesian batik, mass-produced by Dutch traders and sold in West Africa. Today these designs are associated with African dress and identity. In such ways, the piece celebrates the cultural richness and ethnic diversity of the United Kingdom, and also initiates conversations about this country’s past as a colonial power.
The work is the first commission on the Fourth Plinth to reflect specifically on the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square, which commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, and links directly with Nelson’s column.
Born in England in 1962 and raised in Nigeria, Yinka Shonibare, MBE currently lives and works in East London. He studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and at Goldsmiths College in London, graduating as one of the Young British Artists generation. Over the past decade he has gained international attention by exploring issues of post-colonialism, race and class through a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance. His work is represented in major public collections all over the world, and in 2004 he was nominated for the Turner Prize.
The artist was awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and has added this title to his professional name. Yinka Shonibare, MBE has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. The Wanderer by Yinka Shonibare, MBE was ArtFunded for Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in 2007.
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