The first major solo exhibition in Canada by British artist Yinka Shonibare MBE,Pièces de résistance, will be held at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montreal. Born in London of Nigerian heritage, Shonibare moved to Lagos, Nigeria with his family at age three, returning to Britain later to study art. His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe in such notable contexts as Documenta 10 and the 52nd Venice Biennale. This survey exhibition will present seminal and more recent artworks across painting, photo, film, and sculpture.
Shonibare has become known worldwide for his use of Dutch-wax fabric as a conceptual and formal device in all of his work. While associated with Africa, the origins of Dutch-wax fabric are actually found in Indonesian batik techniques, which were then industrialized and appropriated by European interests. With its mixed and mistaken provenances, Dutch-wax fabric provides a sumptuous yet probing vehicle to explore the loaded concept of authenticity and its relationship to identity and representation.
Yinka Shonibare MBE employs a multiplicity of strategies, including auto-ethnography and humour in combination with Western historical and cultural references to deliver a body of work that is simultaneously seductive and subversive. His critical reflection on power relations between Africa and Europe is delivered through a formal treatment that is sensuous and decadent. Through it, he reveals his affection and respect for British culture and institutions while simultaneously questioning class and privilege. It is this ambivalence that most productively unsettles simple binaries and reveals the intricacies involved in negotiating his subject matter.
In 2005, Shonibare was awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (MBE). While other Black British artists have turned down this distinction, this acronym has been officially added to his professional name as it underscores the tensions that emerge through his work in regards to the experience of being at once inside and outside, of belonging and of marginalization.
While Montreal is a site of rigorous historical and political confluences it is also a city of excess and good times. As a result, it provides a provocative and irresistible context for the rich and fascinating body of work presented in Pièces de résistance. DHC/ART wishes to thank James Cohan Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, the Shonibare studio, and the lending museums and collectors for their help in making this exhibition a reality.
Yinka Shonibare MBE was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004. A major mid-career survey toured in 2008–09 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. 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. 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; GL Strand, Copenhagen; Gdańska Galeria Miejska, Gdansk, Poland; and Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw, Poland. Shonibare lives and works in London.
Words: Cheryl Sim