Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962)

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at Central Saint Martins College and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA.


Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. His trademark material is the brightly coloured African’ fabric he buys at Brixton market. The fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass- produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960’s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence.


Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or MBE, he has added this title to his professional name. He was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at Documenta 10 in 2002 to create his most recognised work ‘Gallantry and Criminal Conversation’ that launched him on to an international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and then toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.


Recent notable group shows include ‘The Desire for Freedom: Art in Europe since 1945’, Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2012); ‘Six Yards, Guaranteed Real Dutch Wax Exhibition’, Museum of Modern Art, Arnhem, Netherlands (2012); ‘Migrations: Journeys into British Art’, Tate Britain, London, England (2012) and ‘Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa’, Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA (2013).


Recent solo exhibitions include; ‘Human Culture: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water’, Israel Museum, ‘Jerusalem’ (2010) and ‘Looking Up’, MBE, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Monaco (2010-2011); ‘El Futuro del Pasado’, Alcalá 31 Centros de Arte, Madrid, Spain, then toured to Centro de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2011); ‘Imagined as the Truth’, San Diego Art Museum, San Diego, USA (2012); ‘FOCUS: Yinka Shonibare, MBE’, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, USA (2013); POP! Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2013) and most recently, ‘FABRICA-TION’, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK (2013)


Forthcoming solo exhibitions include; a large solo exhibition at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia and at Blain Southern Gallery, Berlin; both in early 2014. Later this year, a permanent public commission of a new ‘Wind Sculpture’ will be unveiled at Howick Place, London, England. A ‘Wind Sculpture’ will also be shown as part of a solo exhibition at Royal Museums Greenwich in September 2013 and another at Frieze Sculpture Park in October 2013.


Shonibare’s work, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ was the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission, and was displayed in Trafalgar Square, London, until January 2012. It was the first commission by a black British artist and was part of a national fundraising campaign organised by the Art Fund and the National Maritime Museum, who have now successfully acquired the sculpture permanently for display outside the museum’s new entrance in Greenwich Park, London.


In 2012 the Royal Opera House commissioned ‘Globe Head Ballerina’ (2012) to be displayed on the exterior of the Royal Opera House, overlooking Russell Street in Covent Garden. The life-sized ballerina encased within a giant ‘snow globe’ spins slowly as if caught mid-dance, the piece appears to encapsulate a moment of performance as if stolen from the stage of the Royal Opera House.


Shonibare’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including the Tate Collection, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, Rome.