Cake Man, 2013
Unique life-size mannequin, Dutch wax African printed cotton textile, leather, gold, polyester and plaster 315 x 88 x 120 cm (124 x 34 5/8 x 47 ¼ in.)
Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) : Dreaming Rich at Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong
19 November 2013 – 9 January 2014
Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong by renowned British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA); Dreaming Rich, opening on 19 November. The exhibition continues Shonibare’s exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism with a series of all new works commenting on Hong Kong’s modern day relationships with labour, power and wealth.
Dreaming Rich is a characteristically exuberant and colourful critique of wealth, which simultaneously acknowledges society’s complicity with it. Shonibare’s questioning of cultural and national definitions is a pertinent one for Hong Kong, whose identity has been affected by the conflicting influences of Chinese and British colonialism. The exhibition offers a social commentary on Hong Kong’s fascination with luxury commodities, and how those have come in part a medium for social identity.
Cakeman, the centerpiece of the exhibition, is a life-sized sculpture of an aristocrat dressed in elaborate Victorian dress made out of Shonibare’s trademark Dutch wax African batik fabric, which through its Indonesian design references Asia and the continents’ colonial practices. The material references European colonial practices in Africa and, in the context of Dreaming Rich, draws a comparison between the perspectives of colonial wealth and power in Africa and China. Cakeman subverts an act of heavy labour into an image of decadence by depicting a man bent double carrying a precariously balanced tower of colourful cakes on his back. In this figure Shonibare re-imagines a reconstruction of the trappings of power, bringing into sharp focus the contradiction faced by all societies which aspire to do well and “get rich”; where the process of creating vast amounts of wealth relies on the hardships of a labour class.
The artist is interested in the point at which survival turns into greed and excess. The individual Champagne Kid sculptures that can be seen cavorting, or swinging from chairs attached to the walls of the gallery, develop Shonibare’s recent line of enquiry into the corruption, excess and debauchery that have in part lead to the current economic crisis.
These life-sized drunken aristocratic youths seen alongside Cake Man construct an image of wealth and the sense of an over-indulgent party into which the gallery visitor is immediately immersed. Following a recurring theme in his work Shonibare has removed the figure’s heads, calling to mind the guillotined fate that awaited the excessive and corrupt French aristocracy in the 18th Century. Here globes displaying monetary data take the place of faces, which combined with the exuberant poses of the champagne-swigging youths, build a powerful commentary on the excess of anonymous financiers across the globe that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
The exhibition’s exploration of the contemporary worship of commodities is further elaborated in a newly created Bling Painting wall installation measuring six meters wide and containing 27 round paintings. Each of the circular canvases painted black and gold with toys collected from Hong Kong attached by black and gold wires. Shown alongside five new large-scale collage works on paper that use gold leaf, cuttings from the Financial Times, batik fabric flowers and luxury magazine covers, Shonibare’s reflection on the Hong Kong economy and its desire for luxury goods is a poignant reminder of the cycle of contradictions surrounding wealth and power, poverty and danger; dare to dream rich and you may lose your head, fail to dream rich and risk dying of poverty.
Revolution Kid (Fox Girl), 2012
Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton, fibreglass, leather, taxidermy calf head, blackberry and 24 carat gold gilded gun.
Yinka Shonibare / selected works
30 August 2013 - 31 December 2013
Yinka Shonibare is one of those artists who remain consistent in focussing their practice on a specific set of issues – in his case, questions related to British colonial imperialism, which extend further into contemporary postcolonial complexity.
This artist of British-Nigerian descent is known for his theatrical, multi-threaded and colourful works, featuring, among other things: headless mannequins, ballet dancers, wild animals with Black-Berry phones and gilded pistols, as well as opera arias sung by the wife of Admiral Nelson. Shonibare incorporates fabrics into his paintings, installations and videos as a perfect token of the ambiguity or even contradiction inherent in postcolonial culture. Manufacturing fabrics that seem truly African turns out to have been initiated in the Netherlands following Indonesian patterns, while the items themselves were marketed in 19th century in Western Africa, where only over the course of time did they become part of the African identity.
Shonibare comes up with apt combinations of both historic and contemporary symbols, histories and paradigms – dressing up Victorian figures in African fabrics; or showing stuffed animals with modern gadgets to refer to the Arab Spring. Calling himself a postcolonial hybrid, the artist concentrates on the dynamics of meanings generated in-between the great narrations.
Yinka Shonibare MBE at Greenwich
18 September 2013 – 23 February 2014
Following the acquisition of Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle in 2012, we have invited Yinka Shonibare MBE to infiltrate Royal Museums Greenwich.
Dressed in his signature ‘Dutch wax’ fabric, Shonibare’s work interrogates origins, cultural exchange and authenticity. Always playful, often irreverent, Shonibare pokes fun at the establishment by giving an unexpected twist to familiar stories. The vibrant pieces on show at Greenwich will encourage us to look at our collections with fresh eyes, and ask different questions about our maritime and stargazing past. They explore trade and empire, commemoration and national identity, themes that are central to both Shonibare’s work and the Museum’s collections.
Among them, a new work conceived specifically for the Royal Observatory Greenwich will inhabit the Astronomer Royal Apartments in Flamsteed House*. In the parlours of the Queen’s House Nelson and his wife, Fanny, will re-enact their emotional divide. Outside Inigo Jones’ magnificent building, a gravity-defying outdoor sculpture will evoke the billowing sails of historical ships as it captures the wind for a moment in time.
Globe Head Ballerina
2012 Yinka Shonibare MBE
Yinka Shonibare Globe Head Ballerina
Yinka Shonibare's Globe Head Ballerina modelled on The Royal Ballet's Melissa Hamilton.
A unique artwork by Yinka Shonibare, Globe Head Ballerina is the latest public sculpture by the artist. This piece is a life size work based on a photograph of ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Typical of Shonibare’s previous work, the costume is made of African Dutch wax fabric and the dancer has a Victorian-style globe as her head. Encased within a large snow globe style sphere the ballerina rotates on Pointe.
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, Fibreglass, steel, brass, resin, UV ink on printed cotton textile, linen rigging, acrylic and wood
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle
at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare MBE is a 1:30 replica of Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, on which he died during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. It has 80 cannon and 37 sails set as on the day of battle. The richly patterned sails were inspired by Indonesian batik, mass-produced by Dutch traders and sold in West Africa. Today these designs are associated with African dress and identity. The characteristic bright colours and abstract symmetries of Dutch Wax fabric have accrued many complex, often ambivalent associations – with colonialism, industrialisation, emigration, cultural appropriation, and the invention (and reinvention) of tradition – all of which are foregrounded in Shonibare’s work. Used for the rigging of Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, the legacy of Dutch Wax assumes a further, distinctly maritime significance. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004, the same year in which he was awarded an MBE (an appellation that he uses when exhibiting and signing works).
Currently on permanent display at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
To look at previous exhibitions see Press