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Yinka Shonibare's Fourth Plinth Ship To Set Sail in May
Yinka Shonibare in his studio with a maquette of his Fourth Plinth commission "Nelson's Ship in a Bottle". Photo: James O Jenkins.
LONDON.- The next commission for the Fourth Plinth, Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, by leading Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare will be unveiled in Trafalgar Square on the morning of Monday 24 May 2010.

Commissioned by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England with sponsorship from Guaranty Trust Bank of Nigeria and additional funding from the Henry Moore Foundation, Nelson's Ship in a Bottle is a scale replica of HMS Victory in a giant bottle.

The artwork will be the first commission on the Fourth Plinth to reflect specifically on the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square, which commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, and will link directly with Nelson’s column. It is also the first commission by a black British artist.

The ship's 37 large sails will be made of richly patterned textiles commonly associated with African dress and symbolic of African identity and independence. The history of the fabric reveals that they were inspired by Indonesian batik design, mass produced by the Dutch and sold to the colonies in West Africa. Tying together historical and global threads, the work considers the legacy of British colonialism and its expansion in trade and Empire, made possible through the freedom of the seas that Nelson’s victory provided.

Yinka Shonibare says his piece will reflect the story of multiculturalism in London: ‘For me its 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. A ship in a bottle is an object of wonder. Adults and children are intrigued by its mystery. How can such towering masts and billowing sails fit inside such a commonplace object? With Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle I want to take this childhood sense of wonder and amplify it to match the monumental scale of Trafalgar Square.’

Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson's Ship in a Bottle is sponsored by Guaranty Trust Bank who are also supporting Chris Ofili’s mid-career survey exhibition at Tate Britain, on view until 16 May 2010. 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of Nigerian Independence. In London this will be marked by these two important exhibitions by leading international artists of Nigerian descent.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: 'Set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic symbols of Britain's seafaring heritage, Yinka Shonibare's ship, with its riot of colour, makes a powerful statement that will intrigue and inspire in equal measure. It is a stunning work, with history and culture from West Africa to East Asia, woven in its sails, much as the threads of those places and their people are woven in the fabric of the capital. It is also particularly timely, with its message of the complex relationship between Africa and Europe coming as Nigeria marks its 50th year of independence. This is clearly the work of an artist at the top of his game, and I’m sure Londoners will enjoy it greatly.'

Ekow Eshun, Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, said: 'We are absolutely delighted that Yinka Shonibare has accepted the commission and has produced such a topical and compelling artwork. I am very much looking forward to the unveiling in May.'

Tayo Aderinokun, CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank said: ‘We are extremely proud to be sponsoring a unique artwork for an iconic location by such an accomplished Anglo-Nigerian artist. Yinka’s work is being exhibited in the same year as Nigeria celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence. The multiculturalism of London is a key component of the legacy of colonialism, and we hope that this high-profile and important work helps to create a similar debate in Nigeria in such an important year.’

Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at Central Saint Martins College and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. He currently lives and works in the East End of London.

Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. Shonibare’s work explores these issues, alongside those of race and class, through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and, most recently, film. Using this wide range of media, Shonibare examines in particular the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. Mining Western art history and literature, he asks what constitutes contemporary African identity today. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions.

Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. He has added this title to his professional name. He was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor At Documenta 10 in 2002 to create his most recognised work ‘Gallantry and Criminal Conversation’ that launched him on an international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009.

Trafalgar Square | Yinka Shonibare | Fourth Plinth |


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