|Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA)|
9 August 1962 |
London, England U.K.
|Movement||Young British Artists|
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, (born 1962) is a British-Nigerian artist living in London. His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. A hallmark of his art is the brightly coloured fabric he uses. Having a physical disability that paralyses one side of his body, Shonibare uses assistants to make works under his direction.
Life and career
Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962. His family moved to Lagos, Nigeria, when he was three years old. At 17, he returned to Britain to do his A-levels. Shonibare contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation across the spinal cord, at the age of 18, which resulted in a long term physical disability where one side of his body is paralysed. He then studied Fine Art first at Byam Shaw School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the Young British Artists generation. Following his studies, Shonibare worked as an arts development officer for Shape Arts, an organisation which makes arts accessible to disabled people. In 1990 his son Kayode Shonibare-Lewis was born, now an indie game developer and 3D artist.
He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and at leading museums worldwide. He was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at documenta XI in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on an international stage.
In 2004, he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his Double Dutch exhibition at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam and for his solo show at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Of the four nominees, he seemed to be the most popular with the general public that year. A BBC website poll, resulted in 64% of voters stating that his work was their favourite.
Shonibare became an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths' College in 2003, was awarded an MBE in 2004, and received an Honorary Doctorate (Fine Artist) of the Royal College of Art in 2010. He was elected Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts in 2013. He joined Iniva's Board of trustees in 2009. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009 . In 2010, 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' became his first public art commission on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.
"I do have a physical disability and I was determined that the scope of my creativity should not be restricted purely by my physicality. It would be like an architect choosing to build only what could be physically built by hand." says Shonibare. Shonibare readily acknowledges physical disability as part of his identity but creates work in which this is just one strand of a far richer weave. Because of his disability, he is physically incapable of carrying out the making of the work himself, and relies upon a team of assistants to realise his artistic vision for him. In this context, conceptualism takes on a new angle. "That Shonibare became a conceptual artist who delegates much of the production of his labor-intensive projects to a network of other artists is partly a result of his disabling illness."
Shonibare's disability increased with age; his mobility became further restricted with time as he began to use an electric wheelchair. In later life, Shonibare became more open to discussing his disability and its role within his work as a creative artist. In 2013, Shonibare was announced as patron of the annual Shape Arts "Open" exhibition where disabled and non-disabled artists were invited to submit work in response to the 2013 Open theme: "Disability Re-assessed".
Shonibare’s work explores issues of colonialism alongside those of race and class, through a range of media which include painting, sculpture, photography, installation art, and, more recently, film and performance. He examines, in particular, the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. Mining Western art history and literature, he asks what constitutes our collective contemporary identity today. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions.
A key material in Shonibare's work since 1994 are the brightly coloured "African" fabrics (Dutch wax-printed cotton) that he buys himself from Brixton market in London. "But actually, the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think," says Shonibare. "They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own. And it’s the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s the way I view culture – it’s an artificial construct." Today the main exporters of "African" fabric from Europe are based in Manchester in the UK and Vlisco Véritable Hollandais from Helmond in the Netherlands. He has these fabrics made up into European eighteenth-century dresses, covering sculptures of alien figures or stretched onto canvases and thickly painted over.
Sometimes, famous paintings are re-created using headless dummies with the "Africanised" clothing instead of their original costumes, for example Gainsborough's Mr and Mrs Andrews Without Their Heads (1998), Reverend on Ice (2005) (after The Rev Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch by Raeburn) and The Swing (after Fragonard) (2001).  An added layer to the Fragonard piece is that the fabric used is printed with the Chanel logo (though it is obviously not real Chanel fabric).
Shonibare also takes carefully posed photographs and videos recreating famous British paintings or stories from literature but with himself taking centre stage as an alternative, black British dandy, e.g., A Rake's Progress by Hogarth which he translates into Diary of A Victorian Dandy (1998) or Dorian Gray (2001) after Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Considerably larger than a usual ship in a bottle, yet much smaller than the real HMS Victory, in fact a 1:30 scale model, Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, was "the first commission on the Fourth Plinth to reflect specifically on the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square, which commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, and will link directly with Nelson’s column." The work was placed there on 24 May 2010 and remained until 30 January 2012. Being widely admired, in 2011 the Art Fund launched a campaign and successfully raised money for the purchase and relocation of the sculpture to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich where it now found its new permanent home.
Other works include printed ceramics, and cloth-covered shoes, upholstery, walls and bowls.
In October 2013 Shonibare took part in Art Wars at the Saatchi Gallery curated by Ben Moore. The artist was issued with a stormtrooper helmet, which he transformed into a work of art. Proceeds went to the Missing Tom Fund set up by Ben Moore to find his brother Tom, who has been missing for more than ten years. The work was also shown on the Regents Park platform as part of Art Below Regents Park.
Shonibare's first solo exhibition was in 1989 at Byam Shaw Gallery, London. During 2008–09, he was the subject of a major mid-career survey in both Australia and the USA; starting in September 2008 at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009. For the 2009 Brooklyn Museum exhibition, he created a site-specific installation titled Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play which was on view in several of the Museum’s period rooms. Another site-specific installation, Party Time—Re-Imagine America: A Centennial Commission was simultaneously on view at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, from 1 July 2009, to 3 January 2010, in the dining room of the museum’s 1885 Ballantine House.
- 1991 Dysfunctional Family – cuddly looking sculptures of aliens covered in fabric
- 1994 Double Dutch – small deep squares of stretched fabric painted over, on a shocking-pink wall
- 1997 Sensation A group exhibition drawn from the personal collection of Charles Saatchi – Shonibare had two Victorian style dresses in the show in the style of Dressing Down
- 1997 Cha Cha Cha' – a pair of 1950s women's shoes, covered in fabric and encased in a perspex cube
- 1997 Feather Pink More squares of fabric, painted on both the front and edges, with a white background
- 1998 Diary of A Victorian Dandy – photographs of Shonibare in group setups reminiscent of A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth, commissioned for the London Underground
- 1999 Dressing Down exhibition at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK.
- 2000 Vacation – Space suited men covered in African fabric, busy up at the ceilings by the chandeliers
- 2001 Dorian Gray – atmospheric black and white photographs of Shonibare as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray
- 2001 The Swing (after Fragonard) – a headless lifesize recreation of Fragonard's model clothed in African fabric
- 2001 Henry James and Hendrik C. Andersen – two clothed headless lifesize models of the writer James and the sculptor Andersen, symbolising their friendship and commissioned by The British School at Rome
- 2001 The Three Graces – Three headless lifesize models of women of varying proportions, in Victorian dress made from African fabric
- 2002 Gallantry and Criminal Conversation – an installation including a suspended coach, wooden chests and 18 headless 18th century figures engaged in copulation
- 2003 Maxa – circles of partially painted fabric on a deep blue wall
- 2004 Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)] – his first film, showing the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden through dance
- 2005 Lady on Unicycle – a headless Victorian lady in knickerbockers joyously caught frozen mid-cycle
- 2008 Yinka Shonibare: Major Solo Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
- 2009 Yinka Shonibare: Major Solo Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
- 2009–2010 Yinka Shonibare MBE: Major Solo Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (organized and toured by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia)
- 2010–2012 Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, London, Trafalgar Square, Fourth Plinth
- 2010 Before and After Modernism: Byam Shaw, Rex Vicat Cole, Yinka Shonibare MBE
- 2013 FABRIC-ATION, The first major UK survey of work, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England U.K.
- 2013 Wind Sculpture 1, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England - A gravity-defying outdoor sculpture evokes the billowing sails of historical ships as it captures the wind for a moment in time.
- 2014 The Divine Comedy. Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, curated by Simon Njami
- 2014 Yinka Shonibare MBE: Wilderness into a Garden, curated by Sukmo Kim, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yinka Shonibare.|
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- Yinka Shonibare, MBE (Official studio website)
- Yinka Shonibare, MBE at Stephen Friedman Gallery
- Yinka Shonibare, MBE at James Cohan Gallery, New York
- Yinka Shonibare, MBE (RA) at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong
- Yinka Shonibare, MBE (RA) at Blain|Southern Galleries, Berlin
- Yinka Shonibare MBE: Magic Ladders Barnes Foundation exhibition catalogue, 2014