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Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA)

Solo show at Yale Center for British Art. 2016
Date: 1 September, 2016 until 11 December, 2016
Curator: Martina Droth
Organiser: Yale Center for British Art

Yale Center for British Art was the venue for Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), held September 1 - December 16 2016. From the small publication issued on the occasion of the exhibition:

“Bringing together photographs, costumes, sculpture, and film, this display of works by Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) (b. 1962) shows the breadth of his art while focussing on a single theme: the life, death and legacy of admiral Lord Nelson, whom Shonibare takes as an emblem of Britain’s imperial past. Each of the works here incorporates or makes reference to the colorful, dutch wax-printed fabrics that have become Shonibare’s signature material. Associated with Africa but originating in Indonesia and Holland, these fabrics are the product of global trade and point to key themes at the heart of this artist’s work. 

Shonibare’s interest in Nelson began when he was commissioned to make a sculpture for Trafalgar Square, London’s preeminent public space, which commemorates Nelson’s triumph and death at the battle of Trafalgar. Shonibare’s response was to make Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, which reduces Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory to a toy-like replica fitted with an ironically cheerful Dutch wax cotton sails and sealed within a giant glass bottle. In Shonibare’s subsequent characterizations of Nelson and his estranged wife, Frances Nisbet, the same printed fabric reappears in clothing cut to period styles. These modified reproductions of Nelson’s uniform and Fanny’s dress are presented in glass cases like artifacts, their historic associations interwoven with their own function as costumes for Shonibare’s film Addio del Passato and his photographic tableaux, the Fake Death Pictures.

The Center’s collections provide a rich context for considering the political and cultural resonances of Shonibare’s work. The commemoration of Trafalgar and Nelson were major themes for British painters , as can be seen in the collection displays on the fourth floor, and in the special exhibition Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Maritime Painting, on view on the third floor from September 15 to December 4. The display also coincides with the installation of Malcolm Morley’s Trafalgar-Waterloo (2013), and of works on paper by Black British and African American contemporary artists (selected by the Center’s Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, Gillian Forrester), on view nearby on the second floor. Shonibare’s Fake Death Picture (The Death of Chatterton - Henry Wallis), recently acquired by the Center, relates to an oil-on-panel study by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Henry Wallis, which is on view on the far side of the second floor.

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) has been curated by Martina Droth. Deputy Director of Research and Curator of Sculpture, Yale Center for British Art.”


The exhibition comprised seven pieces of Shonibare’s work, plus a related program of screenings, a lecture, and Shonibare in conversation with Kobena Mercer, Professor of the History of Art and African American Studies, Yale University. 

See also britishart.yale.edu/exhibitions/yinka-shonibare-mbe-ra

Related items

click to show details of Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA)

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Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2016

People in this exhibition

»  Yinka Shonibare MBE RA

Born, 1962 in London, England

Exhibition venues

»  Yale Center for British Art

New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America