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Yinka Shonibare Biography

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art at Byam Shaw College of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. He currently lives and works in the East End of London.

Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. Shonibare’s work explores these issues, alongside those of race and class, through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and, more recently, film and performance. Using this wide range of media, Shonibare examines in particular the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.

Mixing Western art history and literature, he asks what constitutes our collective contemporary identity today. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions.

Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. He has added this title to his professional name. In 2002, he was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor for Documenta 10 to create his most recognised work, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, that launched him on the international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009. In 2010, Nelson's Ship in a Bottle became his first public art commission for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, which was later acquired by the Royal Museums Greenwich, UK. In 2013, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park mounted a survey exhibition of the artist’s work titled FABRIC-ATION, which then toured to the GL Strand in Copenhagen. 2014 has seen the artist’s work exhibited at the Gerisch Stiftung in Neumunster, Germany, and three of Shonibare’s Wind Sculptures have been displayed as part of the MCA Chicago Plaza Project. In 2016, Shonibare was honoured for his contribution to African Arts and African Philanthropy at the Smithsonian Institution’s annual African Arts Awards. He also received a second award from the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) for his visionary influence on the Arts.

Recent solo exhibitions include Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK; Gemeentemusuem Helmond, NL; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, US and Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, US (2016); Morris-Jumel Mansion, Washington, US; DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, CA; Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea, KR; James Cohan Gallery, New York, US and the William Morris Gallery, London, UK (2015).

His current and upcoming group exhibitions include Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World at theYale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, US that tours to Kensington Palace, London, UK in June and Across Art and Fashion, Ferragamo Museum, Florence, IT (2017).

In recent years his work has featured in many group exhibitions including BODY/PLAY/POLITICS, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, JP;Animalia curated by Jens Hoffmann, Marian Goodman Gallery, London, UK; the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, US; Turner Contemporary, UK; Lagos, NG and Blain|Southern, Berlin, DE (2016); The Flag Art Foundation, New York, US (2015); Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, KR; Ikon, London, UK; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; the Foundling Museum, London, UK;  Royal Academy of the Arts, London, UK and  Fondation Blachère, Apt, FR (2014).

Image above:

Yinka Shonibare, MBE
Eden Painting 
75 panels, acrylic on Dutch wax printed cotton textile, toys adorned with coloured diamantes and emulsion
Overall size: 375 x 1860 x 5 cm / (147⅝ x 732¼ x 2 in)