Hew Locke: The Ghostly Tourists

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The Chrysler Museum of Art is excited to present its newly acquired sculpture Ghost (2015) by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke. Ghost is a miniaturized version of the King George V class World War II British battleships. These ships acted as envoys for other naval vessels throughout the frigid northern Atlantic Ocean. Ghost is painted with black triangular lines along the sides, mimicking the camouflage World War II ships used against German fleets. Small skulls, beads, and flowers on Locke’s vessel suggest that it is a “ghost ship” and allude to the physical destruction ships like it caused during the war.
Locke’s related film The Tourists (2015) enhances his sculpture. The film was commissioned by The Imperial War Museum, where Locke created and recorded a series of interventions onboard the HMS Belfast, a battleship museum moored in the center of the Thames River in London. In The Tourists, viewers take a tour of this British battleship and discover how the crew members are planning to enjoy some free time in the Caribbean, part of the ship’s final voyage. The Belfast was active during the Korean War as well as in World War II and visited the Caribbean in 1962, stopping in Trinidad on its final voyage.
The film and sculpture work together to show the range of Locke’s practice and his ongoing creation of boats and ships, which represent the artist’s British and Guyanese identities. Ghost and The Tourists stand as icons of the former British Empire and the country’s use of naval power in colonializing Caribbean countries such as Guyana.

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