Yinka Shonibare will make history on May 24th, when his artwork, “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle,” is exhibited at London’s Trafalgar Square. He will be the first black British artist whose work will be displayed at the Fourth Plinth in the north-west of Trafalgar Square.
The exhibit combines elements of the British Empire and his Shonibare’s African background. Shonibare told CNN that by combining conflicting elements in his installations, he aims to explore racial issues and to provoke. His works helped him understand himself as a result of history. Shonibare was raised between Lagos and London. He returned to London at age 19 from Lagos to pursue his career as an artist.
As a child he developed a rare viral infection which attacked his spine and left him temporarily paralyzed. He spent years in physiotherapy in which he had to learn how to do basic movements again like dressing and walking. In a statement released by the Mayor of London’s office, who commissioned the piece, he said: “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 common place 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.”
Shonibare’s paintings, sculptures, and photography, lead to his ability to explain issues that have divided the world for centuries, including imperialism, race issues and globalization. His work has been shown at the 49th Venice Biennial in Italy and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. According to CNN, in 2005 Shonibare was made Member of the Order of the British Empire. His works are currently exhibited at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution.