One of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists, Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962, London) spent his childhood between England and Nigeria. He settled permanently in London in the early 1980s, where he attended art school. Shonibare regards himself as a cultural hybrid, a product of complex and layered relationships forged by centuries of global trade, migration, politics, and cultural exchange. His work reflects these currents in ways that often playfully invite us to look beyond appearances and assumptions about identity.
Wind Sculpture (SG) I takes on the paradoxical task of manifesting the invisible. We can’t see wind, but we do see its effects. Here the dynamic movement of a piece of fabric in a gust of wind is rendered in solid fiberglass at monumental scale. The sculpture is the first in a “second generation” (SG) that extends the artist’s exploration of this theme. It reflects a new approach to design and fabrication, achieving remarkable energy and balance in a gravity-defying form. Painted to resemble West African fabric, it dazzles with color and voluptuous shape. It evokes a sense of freedom and possibility, which for the artist represents the originality of the hybrid. After all, what we now regard as traditional African cloth is based on Indonesian batik fabric first brought to Africa by Dutch traders in the 1800s. For Shonibare, and for Wind Sculpture (SG) I, identity is always a richly layered and dynamic set of relationships.
The exhibition is curated by Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume.