YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Decolonised Structures, 2022-23. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London and New York, James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York. Photographer: Stephen White & Co. © Yinka Shonibare CBE

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
12th April – 1st September, 2024
Serpentine South
Serpentine Galleries
Kensington Gardens
London
W2 3XA

Serpentine is honoured to present a solo exhibition of new and recent works by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962, London, UK). Titled Suspended States, the exhibition will be presented at Serpentine South from 12 April to 1 September 2024. It will coincide with the artist’s presentation at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia from April 2024. The first solo exhibition of Shonibare’s work for over 20 years in a London public institution, it marks a return for the artist who first exhibited at Serpentine South in 1992 as a finalist in the Barclays Young Artist Award, and as a participant in Serpentine’s 2006 Interview Marathon.

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Decolonised Structures (Queen Victoria), 2022, Fibreglass sculpture, hand-painted with Dutch wax pattern and wooden plinth, 139 x 75 x 57 cm. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London and New York, James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York. Photographer: Stephen White & Co. © Yinka Shonibare CBE

The new installation, Sanctuary City comprises a series of miniature buildings which are currently or have historically been places of refuge for persecuted and vulnerable groups. These include recent buildings Hotel des Mille Collines, Rwanda, and Refuge’s headquarters in London; sites of worship such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, and the Chinese Methodist Church, Hong Kong; ancient sites Temple of Theseus, Greece and the Tokeiji Temple, Japan will also be included in the large-scale installation. Each model is painted black, with Dutch wax print interiors illuminated with lights from within, creating a sombre atmosphere to contemplate humanitarian needs for shelter around the world. The artist describes the shelter crisis as “one of the most pressing political concerns right now.”

Continuing Shonibare’s Library series is The War Library, the second new installation in the show which features 5,000 books bound in Dutch wax print with gold lettering on the spines indicating conflicts and peace treaties with links to imperial ambitions. Shonibare reflects that this work raises questions about “human memory and amnesia.”

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
Yinka Shonibare CBE, African Bird Magic (Sokoke Scops-Owl), 2023, Patchwork, applique, quilting, hand dyed silk, linen and cotton and Dutch wax printed cotton, 205 x 164 x 5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London and New York, James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York. Photographer: Stephen White & Co. Photo: © Yinka Shonibare CBE

Central to the exhibition are themes of climate emergency and food sustainability. The series of African Bird Magic quilts juxtaposes images of African artefacts which inspired Western Modernism with images of endangered African birds. These pieces explore the degradation of the African environment through colonial industrialisation and its disastrous effects on ecology.

The exhibition will also explore how Shonibare’s social practice is an important extension of his visual one. The artist has developed and built two new artist residency spaces in Lagos and Ijebu, Nigeria, that opened in May 2022. Outside the village of Ikise near Ijebu Ode, is a working farm, two hours from Lagos that focuses on trans-disciplinary craft, design, art and the environment, food sustainability and agriculture.

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
Portrait of Yinka Shonibare CBE RA.
Photography by Tom Jamieson. Image © Yinka Shonibare CBE and Tom Jamieson.

Yinka Shonibare CBE said: “I established the farm because I realised the importance of researching around nature, developing creative projects and celebrating the relationship with nature and the notion of food sustainability. It is very important, particularly for a place like Nigeria where food is heavily imported. The farm is a place where we’re growing food and where creative people can stay. It’s about entering my studio practice as well as my social practice.”

Shonibare’s Creatures of the Mappa Mundi draws from the imagery of Hereford Cathedral’s medieval map. The works look to the history of xenophobia in European history and the resulting extinction of species. Shonibare explains: “The map reflects our contemporary concerns of fear of the stranger or “other” which often leads to xenophobia. The depictions of extinct creatures of legend are a reminder that we may yet become extinct if we do not take care of our environment.”

Throughout the exhibition are works incorporating Shonibare’s signature use of Dutch wax print, a symbol of the tangled relationship between Africa and Europe. This brightly coloured fabric was inspired by Indonesian batik designs, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to British colonies in West Africa.

Replicas of London public monuments including colonial figures such as Queen Victoria and Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener have been scaled down and painted with Dutch wax print-style patterns to query their public authority in the series Decolonised Structures. These works draw attention to the role of the original monuments and question their continued presence in the public realm.

They parallel Unstructured Icons and Cowboy Angels featuring African masks superimposed over the faces of Western power holders and cowboys. Unstructured Icons highlight luxurious lifestyles supported by colonisation and the importance of African art to the global culture and economy.

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Decolonised Structures, 2022-23. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London and New York, James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York. Photographer: Stephen White & Co. © Yinka Shonibare CBE

Shonibare will feature in the official Nigerian Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia from 20 April – 24 November 2024, one of eight intergenerational artists exhibiting in Nigerian Imaginary, which contemplates the current moment and presents a defiant future for Nigeria. He will also feature as one of the artists exhibiting at the main Venice Biennale exhibition Foreigners Everywhere, curated by Adriano Pedrosa at the Arsenale.

Accompanying the Serpentine exhibition is a catalogue designed by A Practice for Everyday Life with newly commissioned texts by Distinguished SUNY Professor Nkiru Nzegwu; Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, Director of V&A East; curator and poet Peju Oshin; Alayo Akinkugbe, writer, researcher, and creator of A Black History of Art and Ann Marie Pena, Chair of Curatorial Programme and a Founding Trustee of the Yinka Shonibare Foundation.

The exhibition is curated by Tamsin Hong, Exhibitions Curator, and Alexa Chow, Exhibitions Assistant Curator, in close collaboration with the artist, and is produced by Halime Ozdemir Production Manager.

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE RA: SUSPENDED STATES opens on the 12th of April until the 1st of September, 2024 at Serpentine South

©2024 Serpentine

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