Stephen Friedman Gallery is delighted to announce a solo exhibition of new works by Yinka Shonibare, MBE.
This exhibition of all new works focuses on the corruption, excess and debauchery that have in part led to the
current economic crisis. With characteristic wit and critique, Yinka Shonibare explores the contemporary
worship of luxury goods and the behaviour of the banking industry while referencing well known iconography
and art historical homage – most notably in his creation of a large tableau based on Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The
POP! not only presents some of Shonibare’s most ambitious work of late but also reflects the artist’s
engagement with social commentary. It heralds a new direction for the artist with large-scale self-portraits
inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1986 series ‘Camouflage’. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity for
audiences to assess Shonibare’s most recent lines of enquiry.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the artist’s largest and most complex sculptural tableau: a subverted
depiction of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ where Bacchus replaces the central figure of Christ. The
Roman god of wine is here transformed into a headless satyr: half-man, half-goat. Surrounding him at this
debauched banquet are his twelve beheaded disciples cast in poses of sexual and animalistic abandon. In
homage to da Vinci, and filtered through the lens of Victoriana, the scene unravels as the Dionysiac climax of a
pan-historical hedonistic party. By removing the figures’ heads, a recurring motif in Shonibare’s work, the
artist dissuades associations of race. We are also reminded of the executions of the barbarous French
Revolution: a period fittingly remembered for its corruption and excess. In direct reference to the celebratory
excesses of the banking world, these debauched guests have cast their work troubles aside with no care for
tomorrow; scattered across the table is the debris of a lavish feast of both glutton and luxury. This dramatic
tableau is a moment frozen in time, inviting us to walk around and marvel at its exuberance.
Furthering the sense of an over-indulgent party, a sharply suited banker is displayed in another room,
simulating the act of masturbation with an exploding magnum of champagne. Deliberately brash and
humorous, the work combines the light and the dark inherent throughout the exhibition. The corruption
caused by obscene amounts of money still carries its scars today as the hangover of the party remains to be
cleared up. This contrasting depiction of celebration and depravity is continued in a new series of works
entitled ‘Champagne Kids’. These youthful figures each carry a bottle of champagne ready to pop and in the
place of their heads are Shonibare’s trademark globes, displaying financial data relating to the global
economic crisis. Combined with the carnivalesque poses of the figures, they present a powerful commentary
on our current state of affairs, as generations suffer the consequences of the banks’ over-indulgence.
The second part of the exhibition builds from ‘The Last Supper’ by further exploring ideas around the
contemporary worship of commodities. Here, the artist’s most intricate wall painting is presented in alluring
visual opulence. In reference to Shonibare’s ‘Toy Paintings’, the installation includes a number of round fabric
canvases framed by a multitude of different toys. The toys relate to key themes of war, luxury and religion: toy
guns, military figurines, shoes, handbags, faux diamonds, crucifixes and the Holy Grail. Spray-painted black,
the toys are studded with diamantes creating silhouettes against the vivid gold of the mural behind. The
multitude of swirling panels come to represent the fetishisation of war and money, as we simultaneously
desire and repel such objects of glittering beauty.
Throughout the exhibition Shonibare uses his trademark wax batik fabric in the tailored outfits of the figures
and the canvases of the mural. The material is a poignant interception of our modern and colonial times:
inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa.
The fabric has become emblematic of his practice, closely tied to his own self-recognition as a ‘post-colonial’
hybrid. For the first time here, the colours and patterns of the material are used in a group of large-scale selfportraits
based on the iconic Pop Artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Camouflage’ of 1986. Militaristic and haunting, the
artist’s face is so closely blurred with the patterning of the wax batik that despite its immediate familiarity, he
becomes instantly anonymous. As with the other works in the show, the self-portraits are a potent reminder of
the illusory boundaries of protection and danger, so closely aligned with power and money.
The exhibition coincides with a major career retrospective at Yorkshire Sculpture Park which includes new
and critically acclaimed work from 2002 – 2013 and runs 2 March – 1 September 2013.