A Bristol-based artist has created a glass sculpture of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to celebrate the administration of 10 million doses of the vaccination in the UK.
The UK reached this significant milestone in its fight against the pandemic on 3 February 2021. Multidisciplinary artist, Luke Jerram, decided to celebrate in his own way by rendering the virus as a jewel-like glass sculpture measuring 34cm across, or 1 million times larger than the actual nanoparticle.
Based in the UK but working internationally, Jerram creates sculptures, installations and live art projects. His works can be found in several permanent collections around the globe including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and London’s Wellcome Collection.
The artist’s COVID-19 vaccine sculpture is part of a body of glass work called ‘Glass Microbiology’, which he began in 2004. Each sculpture offers an alternative representation of a virus to the artificially-coloured diagrams often presented in the media. Jerram created the works to encourage contemplation of the global impact of different diseases.
In 2020, Jerram created a sculpture of the COVID-19 virus, which was used by the international press to raise awareness of the pandemic. He never imagined that mere months later he himself would fall victim to the virus.
“It’s an awful disease and two months on, my sense of smell is shot, I have tinnitus and still feel tired at times”, the artist recalls on his website. “During my recovery, it became clear to me that my next artwork should focus on the vaccine, our way out of this global crisis, as a tribute to the scientists and medical teams who have been working collaboratively across the world to fight the virus”.
The COVID-19 vaccine sculpture was created using borosilicate glass employing the same materials and techniques used in medical scientific glassware for test tubes and distilleries. One of the most difficult sculptures to make in the ‘Glass Microbiology’ series, it took Jerram one month to complete the piece with his team at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.
The artist plans to donate proceeds from the sale of five limited editions of the artwork to Médecins Sans Frontières to help communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
“It’s brilliant that such effective vaccines have been created in such a short space of time and that here in the UK we’ve been able to role [sic] them out so quickly”, Jerram states on his website. “However, the fight against the disease is a global one, which is why I wanted to support Médecins Sans Frontières, through the sale of these sculptures.”