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Nelson's Ship in a Bottle

© Yinka Shonibare CBE. All rights reserved, DACS 2024. Photo credit: Gautier Deblonde / Greater London Authority

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'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' was a scale (1:30) replica of HMS 'Victory' in a bottle. It was the first commission by a black British artist, and the first to reflect on its setting. Trafalgar Square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, and links directly with Nelson's column. The ship's 37 large sails were made of patterned textiles typical of African dress. They are used to show African identity and independence. The work considers the legacy of British colonialism and its expansion in trade and empire. This was made possible through the freedom of the seas and the new trade routes that Nelson's victory provided. It now has a permanent home at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle




mixed media, including: acrylic (PMMA), cast resin, wood, brass & printed canvas


H 280 x W 250 x D 500 cm

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Acquisition method

commissioned by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group; displayed on the Fourth Plinth, 2010–2012

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Located at

Trafalgar Square, Central London