/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on June 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm
Filed under: Art, featuredarticle

Message in a bottle in Trafalgar Square

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square [map] seems to have become one of the most interesting modern art venues in London. Every few months we get a new art work on the plinth – so much more interesting than the dull generals and field marshals you see everywhere else. And the latest sculpture is really, I think, quite amusing – a huge ship in a bottle which commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar.

Admiral Nelson will be able to gaze down from his column and see a one-thirtieth scale model of his own flagship, the Victory, neatly inserted into a huge bottle like an overgrown seaside souvenir. But though the ship, its guns, its sails and even its signal flags – ‘engage the enemy closely’ – are authentic, the sails have been covered with vivid African-inspired batik designs.

The art work has been made by Yinka Shonibare, who said he wanted to design something “exciting, magical and playful”. I think he’s succeeded. And though there’s a serious comment about colonialism, and the relationship between Britain’s historic past and the dark undertow of slavery, Shonibare is still funny, an artist who amuses and entertains as well as questioning our assumptions. You can take this work on so many levels – a piece of historical revisionism, a gentle subversion, a joke, a homage to Nelson.

A ship in a bottle or a message in a bottle? Or a bit of both? You decide.

Photo by Loz Flowers at flickr

Related places:
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    Trafalgar Square
    Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London WC2N 5, United Kingdom
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