Arts  |  Visual Arts  

Shonibare Heralds World War 1 Centenary, joins RCA secret

By Tajudeen Sowole   |   02 April 2016   |   11:36 pm  
 Part of a sculpture, Yinka Shonibare’s End of Empire PHOTO: John PHILLIP

Part of a sculpture, Yinka Shonibare’s End of Empire PHOTO: John PHILLIP

Works by Yinka Shonibare (MBE) are currently being displayed as part of a project known as 14-18 NOW of World War 1 Centenary Art commissions, in the U,K. At Turner Contemporary’s Sunley Gallery, Shonibare’s two major works have “transformed” a space.

Also, Shonibare, who is a British artist of Nigerian origin, joins Steve McQueen, Grayson Perry, Margaret Calvert, Maggi Hambling and Jeremy Deller, among others for the RCA Secret 2016. The exhibition is on from April 8-15 at the RCA’s Kensington Campus, with the sale beginning on April 10.

A statement on the website of Turner Contemporary says the display, which ends on Sunday, 30, October 2016 coincides with the gallery’s 5th anniversary. Shonibare’s works, describes by the gallery as “powerful” focus themes such as conflict, empire and migration in the centenary year of The Battle of the Somme, poignantly shown at Turner Contemporary against the dramatic backdrop of the North Sea.

Co-commissioned by Turner Contemporary and 14-18 NOW, Shonibare’s newest sculptural work End of Empire explores how alliances forged in the First World War changed British society forever, and continue to affect us today. The new work features two figures dressed in the artist’s signature bright and patterned fabrics; their globe-heads highlighting the countries involved in the First World War. Seated on a Victorian see-saw, the entire work slowly pivots in the gallery space, offering a metaphor for dialogue, balance and conflict, while symbolising the possibility of compromise and resolution between two opposing forces.

Presented alongside this new commission is Shonibare’s The British Library, a colourful work, celebrating and questioning how immigration has contributed to the British culture that we live in today. Shelves of books covered in colourful wax fabric fill the Sunley Gallery, their spines bearing the names of immigrants who have enriched British society. From T.S. Eliot and Hans Holbein to Zaha Hadid, The British Library reminds us that the displacement of communities by global war has consequences that inform our lives and attitudes today.

Accompanying the event, Shonibare will discuss his exhibition and artistic practice in conversation broadcaster and journalist Kirsty Lang, with writer and broadcaster Barnaby Phillips, and SOAS Lecturer in International Relations Dr Meera Sabaratnam at Turner Contemporary on Tuesday 22 March at 6.30pm.

Currently in its 22nd year, the RCA Secret exhibition is a regular event in the art calendar, offering an opportunity to pick up an artwork by a renowned contemporary artist at a bargain price. But with a caveat: ‘only if you pick the right work.’

The 2016 exhibition features almost 2,000 postcards created by diverse famous and up-and-coming artists. Among the other big artists whose works feature this year are Lawrence Weiner, Marion Coutts, Thomas Heatherwick, James Dyson, Alison Wilding, David Bailey, Zandra Rhodes, Damon Albarn, Pete Fowler, and Peter Blake.

The cards are all sold anonymously for a fixed price of £55 each, and the identity of the maker is only revealed once the purchase is complete. The fun, of course, lies in trying to guess who has created what, but whatever you choose, you will come away with a modestly priced piece of original art, so everyone’s a winner. Plus all profits generated go to the RCA Fund, which supports scholarships to the college.



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