DHC/ART Spring Program Update: Yinka Shonibare MBE

January 18, 2015

The team at DHC/ART are busy preparing the next exhibition. We are thrilled to be able to host the first major Canadian presentation of the work of Yinka Shonibare MBE. Pièces de résistance will open at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art on April 28th, 2015.

After a recent curatorial visit to London, Cheryl Sim, curator at DHC/ART, met with the artist at his studio, and we thought we’d pose some questions to her as she reflects on this trip and upcoming project:

Q: Yinka Shonibare MBE is known for his diverse range of artworks in a multiplicity of mediums. What kind of artworks can we expect to see at DHC/ART?

A: One of the aims is to present a survey so the exhibition we are preparing for DHC/ART will feature works across sculpture, photography, painting and film. This way the Montreal audience will get a good sense of the breadth of Shonibare’s body of work.

Q: What does MBE stand for, and do you know the reason this follows the proper name Yinka Shonibare?

A: MBE stands for Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” — or in short, Member of the the British Empire. This title is bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II herself, and was awarded to Shonibare in 2005. Since then it has become part of his professional name. There are other Black British artists who have turned down this honour, but it totally works for Yinka Shonibare MBE to use as it underscores the tensions between being inside and outside British institutions.

Q: As Yinka Shonibare’s work toys with issues of migration of forms (or cultural transfer)—we’re thinking of the way the artist employs Dutch Wax or the motif of a ship in a bottle and the specific connotations that material or iconography triggers when it comes to identity and the movement of goods and bodies— what is your take on the works potential to reanimate questions and ideas relative to our own more local context when it comes to post-colonialism or globalization?

A: I’m always engaged with issues of context in relation to an artist’s questions and subject matter. Montreal is an amazing place to present Yinka Shonibare MBE’s work because it’s a confluence of cultures and histories that are continuously evolving while forever rooted in the past. The questions he raises about identity, authenticity, power and representation will resonate strongly here.

Q: How might a Quebec audience — in as much as we can even define that or understand the contours of such a diverse viewership — relate to the particular post-colonial discourse derived from the works of Yinka Shonibare MBE?

A: In modern day Quebec we are forever blessed and plagued with issues of identity which partly stem from a post-colonial condition which is one of the reasons why I think audiences here will be engaged with the artist’s discourse. He cleverly mixes in comments about class too which will push some buttons.


Photo credit:
Addio del Passato (still)
Duration: 16 min 52 sec
© Yinka Shonibare MBE / image licensed by SODRAC / courtesy of James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai