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Yinka Shonibare, CBE, RA curates show spotlighting African Artist at Stephen Friedman Gallery

‘Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun’

6 Oct – 11 Nov, 2023 | London, United Kingdom

Stephen Friedman Gallery presents ‘Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun’ – a new exhibition by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE RA – and the first to take place at its new London location on Cork Street, Mayfair. Having joined in 1996, Shonibare is one of the gallery’s longest represented artists.

The exhibition includes a group presentation of African artists, and artists from the African diaspora, curated by Shonibare. Some of these artists participated in Shonibare’s residency program at Guest Artists Space Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. Paintings, sculptures, mixed media pieces and works on paper are exhibited.

Described as a “celebration of nature” by Shonibare, the first two rooms of the exhibition comprise a vibrant body of sculptures, masks and quilts. The show takes inspiration from the dada spirit; formed in Zurich during the First World War at Cabaret Voltaire by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings. The movement challenged the bourgeois values and traditions of Western art, from the Renaissance to Naturalism and Impressionism. Throughout the war, dada artists often staged performances in bewildered, trance-like states, evoking African and Oceanic cultures to express animalism, originality, and freedom.

Shonibare makes references to the leisure activities of the aristocracy and westernised interpretations of African spirituality. A life-size sculpture, ‘Feeling Free Like a Bird’, is based on a portrait of a privileged equestrian painted by George Stubbs, whose studies of the anatomy of animals led him to naturalistic

paintings of horses. The woman in the installation is riding side-saddle, reflecting society’s demand for female modesty in both dress and behaviour. She is riding away from such restrictions, carrying native African birds in turn freeing themselves from their cages. These three-dimensional birds come to life from the pictorial quilts in the exhibition, which depict various species made critically endangered by climate change and pollution. The seemingly whimsical becomes an expression of the desire to escape from a world faced with economic challenges and impending environmental catastrophes.

The exhibition is an expression of freedom in the creative community, and this is explored further in a showcase of works by nine emerging and established artists from the African diaspora, curated by Shonibare. Some of these artists have participated in Shonibare’s residency program in Lagos, Nigeria. Guest Artists Space Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to facilitating international cultural exchange, developing creative and research practices through residencies and collaborations. The presentation includes work by Bunmi Agusto, Okiki Akinfe, Victor Ehikhamenor, Masimba Hwati, Gareth Nyandoro, Nengi Omuku, Ozioma Onuzulike, Emma Prempeh and Uzor Ugoala.

Image credits: Yinka Shonibare CBE, Sun Dance Kids (Boy and Girl), 2023. Fibreglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, wooden mask, brass, and steel. 133 x 148.5 x 75.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Stephen White & Co. Copyright Yinka Shonibare CBE.

Stephen Friedman Gallery

Stephen Friedman Gallery is a contemporary art gallery that was founded in 1995 with a focus on representing exceptional artists from around the world. Since its inauguration, the gallery has been based in Mayfair, London. In October 2023, the gallery expanded and relocated from its sites at Old Burlington Street to Cork Street. The first location outside the UK will open on Franklin Street in Tribeca,

New York in November 2023.

Gallery hours:

Tuesday–Friday, 10am–6pm

Saturday 11am–5pm

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Yinka Shonibare, CBE, RA curates show spotlighting African Artist at Stephen Friedman Gallery

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