Yinka Shonibare’s work explores race, class, cultural identity, and colonialism, primarily through use of brightly colored “African” batik fabric. The British-Nigerian artist has utilized these patterns in many forms and mediums to mine their history and associations with the European colonization of West Africa, and to question the meaning of cultural and national definitions. Most notably, Shonibare has highlighted these important issues in a manner that also speaks to the confluence of many identities in public spaces: he has displayed his Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle for the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission at Trafalgar Square in London, and his Wind Sculpture VII was installed permanently outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in 2016.
Shonibare’s talk at The New School accompanies Public Art Fund’s upcoming exhibition, Wind Sculpture (SG) I, a new sculpture commissioned for Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park. Created from fiberglass and covered with an intricate pattern, the 23-foot-tall sculpture will rise above the plaza, reminiscent of the untethered sail of a ship billowing in the breeze. Its unique, hand-painted pattern in turquoise, red, and orange — colors that the artist associates with his childhood on the beaches of Lagos — is inspired by Dutch wax batik print, which Shonibare has called the “perfect metaphor for multilayered identities”. This is the first work in a second generation of his celebrated Wind Sculpture series and continues Shonibare’s ongoing examination of the construction of cultural identity through the lens of colonialism. Wind Sculpture (SG) I will be on view March 7 – October 14, 2018 at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park.
For the Public Art Fund Talk at The New School, Shonibare will be in conversation with Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund, who organized Wind Sculpture (SG) I.
63 Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets
John L. Tishman Auditorium, University Center
About the Artist
Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962 London, UK) moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three; he currently lives and works in the East End of London. He received his MFA from Goldsmiths College, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. Through a variety of mediums, Shonibare’s work examines the implications of colonialism and post-colonialism in an interconnected world. In 2013, a major survey show was mounted at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK, and travelled in part to Royal Museums Greenwich/The Queen’s House, London, UK; GL Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark; Gda?ska Galeria Miejska, Gdansk, Poland; and Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw, Poland. In 2014, Shonibare was the subject of the first contemporary art exhibition at The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. Shonibare was elected to membership in the Royal Academy in 2016. His work is included in many prestigious collections, including The Art Institute of Chicago; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art and Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Tate Collection, London; VandenBroek Foundation, The Netherlands; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, among others. Shonibare was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004, and in 2005 he was awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,” a title that he officially added onto his professional name. In 2010, the artist’s sculpture Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was selected for the prestigious Fourth Plinth commission series in London’s Trafalgar Square and was on view until January, 2012. Following, the Royal Opera House, London, commissioned Globe Head Ballerina (2012) to be displayed outside the Royal Opera House, overlooking Russell Street in Covent Garden.