Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)


Yinka Shonibare CBE, Hybrid Sculpture (Pan), 2021.
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Hybrid Sculpture (Pan), 2021.
Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo by Stephen White & Co.

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA: African Spirits of Modernism

Solo Exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

4 June – 31 July 2021

African Spirits of Modernism is Yinka Shoniabare CBE RA’s seventh solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery. The show is comprised of quilts, sculptures and a series of African masks that engage with the artist's identity as a ‘post-colonial hybrid’. Presented in dialogue alongside the artworks, is archival material that captures the burgeoning interest of African art in Paris in the 1920s.

Playfully described by the artist as “Picasso in reverse”, this new body of work explores the relationship between African aesthetics and western modernist expression by juxtaposing icons of classical European antiquity with African artefacts from Picasso’s collection. As Shonibare explains, “Picasso was interested in appropriating from another culture, and I also appropriate from European ethnic art.” 

The vibrantly coloured textile quilts feature Shonibare’s signature batik fabrics combined with a background of diamond-shaped patterns, is a nod to the recurring Harlequin motif in Picasso’s work, reflecting both artists’ interest in the acrobatic ‘trickster’. In addition, a new series of ceremonial masks, directly inspired by Picasso’s eclectic collection of such objects, are recreated by Shonibare from the Fang, Bamana, Bobo and Nalu peoples.

In three sculptures of mythological hybrid beings – a centaur, a sphinx and Pan – Shonibare takes classical marble sculpture and brings them to life by replacing their heads with replicas of masks in Picasso’s collection, creating another layering of context – a hybrid from Classical Western antiquity with the gaze of an African spirit. By merging powerful African imagery with Western mythological figures, Shonibare creates a composite ideology, which he calls a 'third myth’, that explores appropriation, cultural identity and transformation. 


Yinka Shonibare CBE photographed at the RA Summer Show in 2017. Photo by David Parry.

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA to co-ordinate the 2021 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

The show's theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’ celebrates the joy of art

22 September 2021 – 2 January 2022 


Yinka Shonibare CBE RA is delighted to be co-ordinating this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The exhibition will explore the theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’, celebrating the transformative powers of the magical in art and the sheer joy of making. The show will also serve as a platform for marginalised and overlooked artists who have historically been excluded by the western art narrative.

Submission for artworks are now open, please note the deadline to submit work is Monday 24 May 2021. To find out more details visit summer.royalacademy.org.uk.


Yinka Shonibare said he hopes his forthcoming memorial will ‘remind people that we live in a multicultural society'.
Yinka Shonibare said he hopes his forthcoming memorial will ‘remind people that we live in a multicultural society'.
Photograph by Temilade Adelaja/Reuters

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA to create new sculpture for Leeds

The sculpture that will be a welcoming space for contemplation and a fitting legacy for David Oluwale

A new sculpture from international artist Yinka Shonibare CBE RA has been commissioned by the David Oluwale Memorial Association [DOMA] to honour the life of the British Nigerian and Leeds resident whose personal story inspired local people to create a lasting legacy to mark his life.  The sculpture will be unveiled as part of Leeds 2023, the city’s landmark year of culture.

Following years of work by DOMA, Shonibare’s sculpture will be a significant project in the programme for Leeds 2023. Currently in the research and development stage, with the support of a challenge grant from Leeds 2023, a scaled maquette will be produced by Shonibare in 2021 to accompany a series of community engagement events, an integral part of the project.

“It is an honour to have been asked to create this new work to remember an ordinary man with an extraordinary legacy. This sculpture will be a symbol of hope; an everyday reminder of our desire to improve the lives of all and a place for people to come together and I’m looking forward to working with DOMA and the communities where David lived in the months and years to come.” - Yinka Shonibare CBE

The life of David Oluwale was cut short when he drowned in the River Aire in 1969 following years of mental ill-health, homelessness, racism, destitution and police persecution.


To look at previous exhibitions see Press

©2021. All images are property of Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA).