Nelson's ship in a bottle unveiled on Fourth Plinth
Monday 24 May 2010
A scale replica of HMS Victory - Lord Nelson's ship - in a bottle was unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square today.
British artist Yinka Shonibare's work is the latest in the rolling programme of contemporary art commissions for the plinth.
The model of HMS Victory, Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, is the first artwork on the site to link directly with Nelson's Column and reflect specifically on the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square.
The ship's 37 large sails are made of the richly patterned textiles associated with African dress.
The artist said his work considers the legacy of British colonialism.
He said: "Nelson's Ship In A Bottle will be the first project on the Fourth Plinth to reflect specifically on the relationship between the birth of the British Empire and Britain's present-day multicultural context.
"For me it's a celebration of London's immense ethnic wealth, giving expression to and honouring the many cultures and ethnicities that are still breathing precious wind into the sails of the United Kingdom."
Nelson lost his life at the battle of Trafalgar, with a plaque on HMS Victory marking the spot where he fell.
He was brought back to England preserved in a coffin of brandy and subsequently buried in St Paul's Cathedral.
The sculpture, which is 15.4ft (4.7m) long and measures 7.7ft (2.35m) from the keel to the top of the main mast, will be on show for around 18 months.
The bottle, complete with giant cork, was made by aquarium specialists in Rome, using a new moulding technique.
Shonibare said of the unveiling: "I can't really describe my emotions. I've waited about two and a half years for this."
He added: "I think Nelson would be proud to see that his battle has had a significant effect on the lives of so many people. This piece celebrates the legacy of Nelson."
London Mayor Boris Johnson thanked Shonibare, who is of Nigerian descent, for "encapsulating so much history in this work of art" at a time when a poll showed that 15% of British 18 to 24-year- olds thought Oliver Cromwell led the British forces against the French and Spanish navies during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Mayor put his own interpretation on the work, saying: "This sculpture vividly and poetically hints at the central reason why Nelson was able on that magnificent day in 1805 to defeat the Franco-Spanish fleet despite having fewer ships, fewer guns and half as many men."
He added: "What did Nelson have in addition to the Nelson touch? He had a lot of bottle. It has taken an artist of Yinka's imagination to show quite how much bottle he had."
Peter Goodwin, the curator and keeper of HMS Victory, said of the work: "There were 22 nationalities on the ship, including Jamaican, Indian and even four French. The work encapsulates this as well as being one of our greatest national icons.
"I think it will help focus people's attention here in Trafalgar Square on the fact that we have the greatest admiral nearby."
He joked: "This small version of the ship (will), even though we can't get the big one back yet."
Lieutenant Commander John Scivier, the ex-captain of Victory, declared the model "absolutely wonderful (and) to scale".
"From the point of view of the ex-captain of Victory, it's wonderful to see the replica there in so much detail," he said.
The ship replaces Sir Keith Park's statue and, prior to that, Antony Gormley's One And Other, which invited a different person to stand on the plinth every hour for 24 hours a day.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
- 2 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 4 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender says showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Top Gear: Jeremy Clarkson 'can't front ITV motoring show' due to BBC contract clause
Amy Winehouse film: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' movie as it scores highest ever UK opening for British documentary
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts