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Yinka Shonibare’s new work is unveiled on the Fourth Plinth

  • Date: 25 May 2010
  • Area: London, National
© Yinka Shonibare, MBE and courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York)

© Yinka Shonibare, MBE and courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York). Credit: Photo courtesy Stephen White

The latest Fourth Plinth commission Nelson's Ship in a Bottle by Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare was unveiled in Trafalgar Square on Monday, 24 May, on the eve of Africa Unity Day.

Commissioned by the Mayor of London and supported by Arts Council England, Guaranty Trust Bank of Nigeria and the Henry Moore Foundation, Nelson's Ship in a Bottle is the first Fourth Plinth commission by a black British artist.

The work, which is a scale replica of the HMS Victory with African-inspired batik sails, explores the legacy of British colonialism and its expansion in trade and Empire - made possible by Nelson's victory in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Yinka Shonibare said: '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.'

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, 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. As with the times, it's a vibrant coalition bringing together the traditional and the contemporary, showing London to be creative and forward looking.'

Moira Sinclair, London Executive Director of Arts Council England said: 'Yinka's artwork looks through a historic lens to celebrate contemporary London as a truly global city. It directly reflects on its setting and will provide a perfect counterpoint for Nelson. We hope everyone will enjoy the piece on the plinth.'

Tate Britain is hosting 'Message in a Bottle: Debating Multiculturalism and the Arts' on Tuesday, 25 May from 6.30-8pm, to coincide with the unveiling of Nelson's Ship in a Bottle. Yinka Shonibare MBE will be among speakers. Visit Tate Online for further information and to book tickets.