27.04.2014 - 19.10.2014
Yinka Shonibare MBE
Cannonball Paradise
  • Adam and Eve, 2013. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Blain|Southern, Berlin.
  • Self Portrait (after Warhol) 5, 2013. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Girl on Globe 4, 2011. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist, Blain|Southern, Berlin and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Planets in My Head, Music, 2012. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Willy Loman: Thee Rise and Fall (Paradise), 2009. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

At the end of April a large exhibition of the works of Yinka Shonibare MBE (born in 1962) opens at Herbert Gerisch Foundation. ‘Cannonball Paradise’ is Shonibare’s first large-scale solo exhibition at a German art institution and comprises around 20 installations, photographic works and videos. The artist, who grew up in Nigeria and now lives in London, achieved his full international breakthrough with his participation in documenta 11 in 2002. Further larger solo exhibitions followed at institutions including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and Tate Britain in London.

A trademark of Shonibare’s work are figures wearing wax print clothes which appear almost Baroque. The wax print patterns conjure up visions of an exotic Africa. Put in positions that are provocative, these often headless figures form a bizarre scene in which the artist plays with stereotypes of race, class and culture. However, it would be too reductionist to limit Shonibare’s artistic approach to simply questioning post-colonial views on history. His works are also imbued with a sense of humour and exuberant narrative joy. Brightly coloured fabric bullets fly out of gun barrels and a headless Eve tempts Adam in a colourfully patterned African costume. This pairing of joie de vivre with self- critical reflection on the history that links Africa and Europe makes Shonibare’s art hugely attractive.

Yinka Shonibare MBE is the second artist of African origin after Romuald Hazoumè (2011) to be invited by Herbert Gerisch Foundation to exhibit. And just like Hazoumè, Shonibare has been asked to stage a large solo exhibition on African perceptions of paradise. The background to all this is the Foundation’s landscaped park which is based on an Arcadian and idyllic tradition. This becomes particularly apparent when it comes to the vibrantly multi-coloured, six metre high ‘Wind Sculpture’ in the Gerisch Foundation sculpture park, which Shonibare produced specifically for this exhibition. It is as if a huge wax print cloth were fluttering across the lawn. This type of cloth is a symbol of Africa in many of Shonibare’s works and can only be understood within the context of colonial history. Political and cultural realities are thus broken, reflected and made topical on many different levels against a paradisiacal setting.