Hew Locke constructed Koh-i-noor, one of three monumental portraits of Queen Elizabeth, out of hundreds of kitschy plastic toys and trinkets, disposable products of the new global economy. The bristling blades of toy sabers suggest might and power. With this work, Locke, who was born in Britain and raised in Guyana, explores tensions between contemporary British society and its colonial past. The title refers to the Koh-i-noor diamond, a legendary treasure dating back to fourteenth-century India. Once the largest diamond in the world, it passed through the hands of Sikh, Mughal, and Persian rulers as a highly prized spoil of war. In 1877 the British government declared Queen Victoria the Empress of India, and the diamond entered the British Crown Jewels collection.
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