Art from the Diaspora: Yinka Shonibare Exhibition at Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation
Jan 22, 2014 | News

This weekend, "Magic Ladders," an exhibition of works by Afro-Brit artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, opens at Philadelphia's world-renown Barnes Foundation.

A 17-piece exhibition of works by British artist Yinka Shonibare called “Magic Ladders” comes to Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation this weekend. This exhibition is the first one commissioned by the institution in more than 80 years, and will be at the Barnes through April 24.

Shonibare was born in London, raised in Lagos (Nigeria) and later returned to London for formal art training. He describes himself as a “post-colonial hybrid” and uses his work, which includes sculpture, photography, paintings, film, performance and intricate installations, to examine “the conflicted relationship, both cultural and economic, between Europe and Africa.” The artist’s work has been featured around the globe and he has received some of the most coveted awards in the art world. He is also a recipient of the British MBE designation – Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Most of Shonibare’s work features African wax prints – the bright, colorful fabric that many of us equate with African textiles and clothing. However, even this understanding bears a deeper look. While it is well known that the wax prints found so abundantly in West African and North American fabric retailers are manufactured in the Netherlands, what many do not know is that the intricate designs are said to be based on Indonesian patterns. Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.

That nugget of speculation is particularly relevant to Shonibare’s work, which combines Western art history and literature to question the meaning of cultural and national definitions – and specifically look at “the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.”

For more information on Yinka Shonibare, MBE, we encourage you to visit his website.

Details on his exibition at the Barnes Foundation are available here.

Our content partner Newsworks (WHYY) also published a great feature that we highly recommend.