Yinka Shonibare MBE
- Dates: June 26, 2009 through September 20, 2009
- Collections: Contemporary Art
March 31, 2009: The Brooklyn Museum will present the first major survey of the work of the British-based, Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, whose art explores the relationship of contemporary African identity to European colonialism. Yinka Shonibare MBE will include more than twenty works, among them sculptures, paintings, large-scale installations, and films.
The exhibition will be on view in the fourth-floor galleries in the Schapiro Wing and in the first-floor Blum gallery. There will also be a site-specific installation created for this presentation featuring figures of small children and titled Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play that will be on view in several of the Museum’s period rooms.
Shonibare is best known for working with visual symbols, especially the richly patterned Dutch wax fabric, produced in Europe for a West African market, which he uses in a wide range of applications. His tableaux of headless mannequins costumed in this fabric evoke themes of history and its legacy for future generations. Through these works he explores the complex web of interactions, both economic and racial, that reveal inequalities between the dominant and colonized cultures of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Yinka Shonibare MBE is organized and toured by The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia. Judy Kim, Brooklyn Museum Curator of Exhibitions and Head of the Exhibitions Division, will coordinate the presentation, after which it will travel to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Yinka Shonibare MBE is sponsored by Bloomberg. Ovation TV is Media Sponsor.
Shonibare was born in 1962 in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, who returned to Lagos with their children when he was three. When he was seventeen he relocated to London, where he currently lives and works. He studied at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at the Byam Shaw School of Art, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London. His work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions and is in public and private collections throughout the world. In 2005 Shonibare was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire, MBE, a distinction he uses despite and because of its irony.
While in art school Shonibare was asked why his work was not African in theme, a question that eventually led him to address issues of stereotypes and authenticity in his work. He selected the Dutch wax fabrics for use in multiple applications because they had become a signifier of authentic African identity while evoking a sense of ambiguity and complex origins; he opted to purchase them in London rather than Africa to render the material’s connotations of African exoticism false.
Citing feminist theory and deconstructionist literature as influences on his work, Shonibare explores the idea of the outsider masquerading within the dominant culture while remaining peripheral or external to it. Also influential are painters such as Thomas Gainsborough and Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who portrayed the eighteenth-century culture of excess. Shonibare’s sculpture installation The Swing (2001), which responds to Fragonard’s 1767 painting of the same name, depicting a privileged young woman at leisure, will be included in the exhibition.
In the site-specific installation Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play, Shonibare will draw upon what he views as the expressions of American middle-class aspiration and achievement exemplified in the Museum’s period rooms to create a sort of treasure hunt. Headless figures of mischievous children whose presence will not be immediately apparent will be discovered playing in unexpected and physically challenging positions. The figures, exemplifying privileged youth, will be clad in Victorian costumes made from Dutch wax fabrics.
Also on view will be Scramble for Africa (2003), in which the artist draws upon the moment in nineteenth-century expansionism when leading world powers carved up the continent of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. Various statesmen, typically headless, are huddled around a table using a large map of Africa to stake their claims. In addition, Black Gold II is one of a series of paintings that explores themes of colonial domination and exploitation, in which multinational companies extract Africa’s natural resources while its indigenous people live in poverty.
Shonibare continues his exploration of themes of wealth, class, and privilege with The Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlour (1996-97), the artist’s version of an opulent nineteenth-century interior, replete with furniture upholstered with Dutch wax fabrics and designed like a stage set in which visitors will be able to walk around. Diary of a Victorian Dandy, a suite of five large-scale photographs, depicts the dandy’s activities throughout the course of a day and features Shonibare and a supporting cast in Victorian costume.
The exhibition will include two recent films, among them Un Ballo in Maschera (2004), which takes its title from the Verdi opera, inspired by the assassination of Swedish King Gustav III at a masked ball in Stockholm. An ambitious, technically complex project, the 32-minute costume drama features performers in Dutch-wax-fabric ball gowns, frock coats, and Venetian masks, and explores themes of frivolity and excess.
Another site-specific installation, Party Time—Re-Imagine America: A Centennial Commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE, will be on view at The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, from July 1, 2009 to January 3, 2010. Party Time is the artist’s first work to be situated in a Victorian-era home—the dining room of the museum’s 1885 Ballantine House. The installation imagines the scene of a late nineteenth-century dinner party in which eight headless figures, dressed in ornate period costumes made from Dutch wax textiles are midway through a lavish multicourse feast, as a servant appears bearing a peacock as the main course.
Yinka Shonibare MBE is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue published by Prestel, which includes essays by Rachel Kent, Senior Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, who organized the exhibition, and by Robert Hobbs, Rhoda Thalheimer Endowed Chair in Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University. Also included is an in-depth interview with Yinka Shonibare conducted by Anthony Downey, Ph.D., Programme Director of the M. A. in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute in London.
Press Area of Website View Original
- ART REVIEW | YINKA SHONIBARE; Fashions of a Postcolonial ProvocateurJuly 3, 2009 By KAREN ROSENBERG"Yinka Shonibare loves to make fun of Victorian repression, but the art in his first major survey is just as stuffy in its own way. ''Yinka Shonibare MBE'' is an important show for Mr. Shonibare, the British-Nigerian artist, and for the Brooklyn Museum, which is counting on accessible contemporary art to give its bottom line a boost. It has some of..."
- ARTS | NEW JERSEY; The Rich Were Different (and Perhaps Still Are)July 12, 2009 By BENJAMIN GENOCCHIO"Wealth has its privileges, a message quickly conveyed by ''Party Time: Re-Imagine America,'' a powerful new site-specific installation by Yinka Shonibare commissioned by the Newark Museum as part of the celebration of its centennial year. ''Party Time'' is set in the opulent wood-paneled dining room of the Ballantine House, built in 1885 for a..."
- THE LISTINGSJuly 17, 2009 By THE NEW YORK TIMES"ART Museums and galleries are in Manhattan unless otherwise noted. Full reviews of recent art shows: nytimes.comart. Museums AMERICAN FOLK ART MUSEUM: 'THE TREASURE OF ULYSSES DAVIS,' through Sept. 6. Ulysses Davis (1914-1990) was a Savannah, Ga., barber who whittled and carved wooden sculptures in his shop when business was slow. Organized by the..."
- The ListingsJuly 24, 2009 By THE NEW YORK TIMES"ART Museums and galleries are in Manhattan unless otherwise noted. Full reviews of recent art shows: nytimes.comart. Museums AMERICAN FOLK ART MUSEUM: 'THE TREASURE OF ULYSSES DAVIS,' through Sept. 6. Ulysses Davis (1914-1990) was a Savannah, Ga., barber who whittled and carved wooden sculptures in his shop when business was slow. Organized by the..."