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. 


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