Yinka Shonibare Biography

It is no coincidence that exhibition titles like “Dressing Room” or “Diary of a Victorian Dandy” are often dealing with clothes, fashion and questions of lifestyle, seeing that the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare uses seemingly typical “African” clothing fabric for his installations. The patterns are in fact modified imports, fabrics that have been imported to Europe by dutch colonial masters in the 17th and 18th century and that have been changed over time. These colourful patterns are still used and altered by well-known fashion designers. Therefore, in Yinka Shonibare's work the fabrics are not signifying authentic African culture, but proof that perceptions of cultural identity are constructed. His installations and sculptures deal with questions of national, cultural and social membership.

“In his installations he uses the boldly coloured printed cotton-fabrics for the sophisticated clothes of the Victorian upper-class.”

Yinka Shonibare, who lived in Lagos as a child and teenager, now works in London and often buys the fabrics he works with at flea-markets. In his installations he uses the boldly coloured printed cotton-fabrics for the sophisticated clothes of the Victorian upper-class, but also for wall-screens and the sails of small ship models. One of his installations titled “Nelson's Ship in a Bottle” is a replica of the HMS Victoria. This flagship of a big fleet was used in many historical sea battles of the english marine. As a contemporary response to this, the mayor of London had Yinka Shonibare's ship model exhibited on London's Trafalgar square in 2010. The title of the installation hints to the fact that under Admiral Nelson's lead the original HMS Victoria played a significant part in the battle that gave name to the square in London: The battle of Trafalgar.

Born in 1962, Yinka Shonibare studied at London's Goldsmith College. He has been receiving considerable attention since his nomination for the Turner Price in 2004, exhibitions in New York, Philadelphia, Rotterdam and Israel made him internationally famous. Yinka Shonibare works with different media: Besides his installations, sculptures and wall-pieces, he also creates photographs and films. In one of his earlier photographs he depicted himself as a colonial master – with a baroque wig, velvet clothing and a quill pen in hand.

Yinka Shonibare - Exhibitions

Yinka Shonibare's work can be found in numerous public collections such as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, the Tate Collection in London and the LACMA in Los Angeles. Private collections such as the Saatchi Collection have already bought some of the artist's pieces.

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Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare

"Boy with Bow and Arrow on Stilts", 2006

Yinka Shonibare - \