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The first solo institutional exhibition presented in London in over 20 years featuring two new large-scale installations: Sanctuary City and War Library

Suspended States marks a return for the artist who first exhibited at Serpentine South in 1992 and as a participant in the Interview Marathon in 2006.

Serpentine South

12 April - 1 September 2024

Press view: Thursday 11 April, 9.30am-12pm

Serpentine is honoured to present a solo exhibition of new and recent works by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962, London, UK). Titled Suspended States, the exhibition will be presented at Serpentine South from 12 April to 1 September 2024. It will coincide with the artist’s presentation at the 60th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia from April 2024.

The first solo exhibition of Shonibare’s work for over 20 years in a London public institution, it marks a return for the artist who first exhibited at Serpentine South in 1992 as a finalist in the Barclays Young Artist Award, and as a participant in Serpentine’s 2006 Interview Marathon.

Suspended States will include new and recent installations, sculptures, pictorial quilts and woodcut prints. The works on view will explore central themes of legacies of colonial power, sites of refuge and shelter. Shonibare’s new works centre on conflicts and related migration, and conversations on public sculptures and their significance in our cities. The exhibition will also delve into the ecological impact of colonisation, the European legacy of imperialism and consequential attempts at peace.

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA said: “My work has always been about the crossing of boundaries; geographically, visually, historically, and conceptually. Suspended States is an exhibition that addresses the suspension of boundaries, whether psychological, physical, or geographical — all boundaries of nationhood are in a state of suspense.

This is an exhibition in which Western iconography is reimagined and interrogated, at a moment in history when nationalism, protectionism and hostility towards foreigners is on the rise.”

Bettina Korek, CEO of Serpentine and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine said: “The first institutional exhibition of Yinka Shonibare CBE was held here at Serpentine 32 years ago, and it is a special honour to welcome the artist back to the galleries.

As a multidisciplinary storyteller, Shonibare’s work epitomises Serpentine’s mission of building new connections between artists and society. Suspended States continues in Shonibare’s career-long interrogation of colonial histories and the legacies of public art, a line of questioning we could not be prouder to share with audiences in London for the first time in decades.”

The new installation, Sanctuary City comprises a series of miniature buildings which are currently or have historically been places of refuge for persecuted and vulnerable groups.

These include recent buildings Hotel des Mille Collines, Rwanda, and Refuge’s headquarters in London; sites of worship such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, and the Chinese Methodist Church, Hong Kong; ancient sites Temple of Theseus, Greece and the Tokeiji Temple, Japan will also be included in the large-scale installation. Each model is painted black, with Dutch wax print interiors illuminated with lights from within, creating a sombre atmosphere to contemplate humanitarian needs for shelter around the world.

The artist describes the shelter crisis as “one of the most pressing political concerns right"

Continuing Shonibare’s Library series is The War Library, the second new installation in the show which features 5,000 books bound in Dutch wax print with gold lettering on the spines indicating conflicts and peace treaties with links to imperial ambitions.

Shonibare reflects that this work raises questions about “human memory and amnesia.”

Central to the exhibition are themes of climate emergency and food sustainability. The series of African Bird Magic quilts juxtaposes images of African artefacts which inspired Western Modernism with images of endangered African birds. These pieces explore the degradation of the African environment through colonial industrialisation and its disastrous effects on ecology.

The exhibition will also explore how Shonibare’s social practice is an important extension of his visual one. The artist has developed and built two new artist residency spaces in Lagos and Jjebu, Nigeria, that opened in May 2022. Outside the village of Ikise near Ijebu Ode, is a working farm, two hours from Lagos that focuses on trans-disciplinary craft, design, art and the environment, food sustainability and agriculture.

Yinka Shonibare CBE said: “I established the farm because I realised the importance of researching around nature, developing creative projects and celebrating the relationship with nature and the notion of food sustainability. It is very important, particularly for a place like Nigeria where food is heavily imported. The farm is a place where we’re growing food and where creative people can stay. It’s about entering my studio practice as well as my social practice.”

Shonibare’s Creatures of the Mappa Mundi draws from the imagery of Hereford Cathedral’s medieval map. The works look to the history of xenophobia in European history and the resulting extinction of species. Shonibare explains: “The map reflects our contemporary concerns of fear of the stranger or “other” which often leads to xenophobia. The depictions of extinct creatures of legend are a reminder that we may yet become extinct if we do not take care of our environment.”

Throughout the exhibition are works incorporating Shonibare’s signature use of Dutch wax print, a symbol of the tangled relationship between Africa and Europe. This brightly coloured fabric was inspired by Indonesian batik designs, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to British colonies in West Africa.

Replicas of London public monuments including colonial figures such as Queen Victoria and Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener have been scaled down and painted with Dutch wax print-style patterns to query their public authority in the series Decolonised Structures.

These works draw attention to the role of the original monuments and question their continued presence in the public realm.

They parallel Unstructured Icons and Cowboy Angels featuring African masks superimposed over the faces of Western power holders and cowboys. Unstructured Icons highlight luxurious lifestyles supported by colonisation and the importance of African art to the global culture and economy.

Shonibare will feature in the official Nigerian Pavilion at the 6oth International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia from 20 April - 24 November 2024, one of eight intergenerational artists exhibiting in Nigerian Imaginary, which contemplates the current moment and presents a defiant future for Nigeria. He will also feature as one of the artists

exhibiting at the main Venice Biennale exhibition Foreigners Everywhere, curated by Adriano Pedrosa at the Arsenale.

Accompanying the Serpentine exhibition is a catalogue designed by A Practice for Everyday Life with newly commissioned texts by Distinguished SUNY Professor Nkiru Nzegwu; Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, Director of V&A East; curator and poet Péju Oshin; Alayo Akinkugbe,writer, researcher, and creator of A Black History of Art and Ann Marie Pena, Chair of Curatorial Programme and a Founding Trustee of the Yinka Shonibare Foundation.

The exhibition is curated by Tamsin Hong, Exhibitions Curator, and Alexa Chow,Exhibitions Assistant Curator, in close collaboration with the artist, and is produced by Halime Ozdemir Production Manager.

Notes to Editors

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA (b. 1962) in London, UK, studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art, London (1989) and received his MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London (1991).

His interdisciplinary practice uses citations of Western art history and literature to question the validity of contemporary cultural and national identities within the context of globalisation. Through examining race, class and the construction of cultural identity, his works comment on the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe, and their respective economic and political histories.

In 2004, he was nominated for the Turner Prize and in 2008, his mid-career survey began at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, travelling in 2009 to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. In 2010, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ was displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square,London and is in the permanent collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

In 2013, he was elected a Royal Academician and was awarded the honour of ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in 2019. His installation The British Library was acquired by Tate in 2019 and was on display at Tate Modern, London from 2019-2022.

Shonibare was awarded the prestigious Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award in 2021. A major retrospective of his work opened at the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg in the same year followed by his co-ordination of The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London which opened in September 2021.

The survey solo exhibition, Yinka Shonibare CBE: Planets in My Head, opened in April 2022 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan followed by the unveiling in June 2022 of a major new sculptural work, Wind Sculpture in Bronze I at Royal Djurgarden, Stockholm.

In November 2022, Shonibare hosted the international launch of Guest Artists Space (G.A.S.) Foundation, a non-profit founded and developed by the artist.

The Foundation is dedicated to facilitating cultural exchange through residencies, public programmes, and exhibition opportunities for creative practitioners from around the world. The live/work residency spaces are set across sites in Lagos and a rural working farm in Ijebu, Ogun State:

Leeds 2023 commissioned Shonibare’s Hibiscus Rising, a major public memorial in Leeds for David Oluwale, which opened in November 2023.

Shonibare’s works are in notable museum collections internationally, including the Tate Collection, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and VandenBroek Foundation, The Netherlands.

About Serpentine

Building new connections between artists and society, Serpentine presents pioneering contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events with a legacy that stretches back over half a century, from a wide range of emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists, writers, scientists, thinkers, and cultural thought leaders of our time.

Based in London’s Kensington Gardens, across two sites, Serpentine North and Serpentine South, Serpentine features a year-round, free programme of exhibitions, architectural showcases, education, live events and technological activations, in the park and beyond the gallery walls.

The Serpentine Pavilion is a yearly pioneering commission, which began in 2000 with Dame Zaha Hadid. It features the first UK structures by some of the biggest names in international architecture.

Public art has emerged as a central strand of Serpentine’s programme. Major

presentations include a collection of Eduardo Paolozzi’s sculptures (1987), Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Upside Down (2010), Lee Ufan presented Relatum-— Stage (2018-19), Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s London Mastaba in the Serpentine Lake (2018), [LOVE YOU EARTH by Yoko Ono (2021), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster In remembrance of the coming alien

(Alienor), (2022), and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker (2022 - ongoing).

Proud to maintain free access for all visitors, thanks to its unique location, Serpentine also reaches an exceptionally broad audience and maintains a profound connection with its local community.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a special limited edition print and will be released at the opening of the exhibition.

For more information on receiving information on the available editions, please

For more information, please contact:

Nicolas Smirnoff, Head of Communications,; +44 7570


Esther Saunders-Deutsch, Press Manager,; +44 7879 1981



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