Shonibare’s ‘Wind Sculpture VIII’ Installed in D.C.

Posted in museums by Editor on December 5, 2016


Yinka Shonibare MBE, Wind Sculpture VII (detail), 2016, steel armature with hand-painted fiberglass resin cast and gold leaf (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, purchased with funds from Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi and Adebayo Ogunlesi and the Sakana Foundation, 2016-11-1).

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Press release (via Art Daily) from the National Museum of African Art:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced the acquisition and permanent installation of sculpture Wind Sculpture VII by celebrated contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE. Wind Sculpture VII made its Smithsonian debut Saturday, December 3; it has been installed in front of the National Museum of African Art.


A rendering of Shonibare’s sculpture as envisioned outside the National Museum of African Art (James Cohan Gallery).

Part of a series of seven individually designed sculptures, Wind Sculpture VII is the first artwork installed permanently in front of the museum. Constructed from fiberglass, this unique, gold-leaf version of Shonibare’s Wind Sculptures series evokes the sails of ships that have crossed the Atlantic and other oceans, connecting nations through the exchange of ideas, products, and people. In its form, it captures histories that can be inspiring or brutal but always complex. It suggests that the opening of the seas led not only to the slave trade and colonization but also to the dynamic contributions of Africans and African heritage worldwide. Using yellow, blue, rose, and gold, Shonibare celebrates the African men, women, and children who have shaped the United States, Great Britain, and other nations of today and for the future.

“The museum is proud to present this stunning and monumental public sculpture at the museum,” said Karen Milbourne, curator and project lead. “This work of art will transform the façade of our museum and pay tribute to the connections between Africa and America. The patterns emblazoned on this sculpture replicate so-called ‘African print cloth,’ which are in fact based on Indonesian batiks manufactured in the Netherlands and United Kingdom and then exported to West Africa where they have become synonymous with African identity. Shonibare draws on this entangled history to direct attention to the global connections that unite individuals and communities worldwide. Africa’s global connections and the vision of its artists are the focus of this national museum; this sculpture will inspire visitors and spark conversation.”

Facts about Wind Sculpture VII:
• The work weighs 899 pounds
• It took seven people one month to paint and gild the sculpture
• The structure is 20 feet tall and 10 feet, 6 inches wide
• Only about a 7-inch-diameter point of the sculpture touches the ground

Throughout the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film, and performance, Shonibare’s work examines race, class, and the construction of cultural identity. Through sharp political commentary of the interrelationships between Africa and Europe’s economic and political histories and wry citations of Western art history and literature, Shonibare questions the validity of contemporary cultural and national identities.

Shonibare was born in the United Kingdom in 1962 and moved to Lagos, Nigeria, at the age of 3. He returned to London to receive his MFA from Goldsmiths College, a part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. He gained notoriety on the international stage via his commission for Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta 10 and was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004. In 2005 he was awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a title that he officially added on his professional name. His works were featured in the 52nd Venice Biennale and a major mid-career survey toured 2008–09. In 2011, the artist’s sculpture Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was selected for Trafalgar Square’s prestigious commission series. Shonibare’s works are included in many prestigious public collections spanning the globe. He currently lives and works in London’s East End.






Exhibition | Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Works of Africa

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 5, 2016


Yinka Shonibare MBE, still from Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004, high-definition digital video, 32 minutes
(Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York)

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Now on view at LACMA and the National Museum of African Art:

Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Works of Africa
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 20 December 2015 — 2 January 2017
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., 18 May 2016 — 2 January 2017

Our hearts beat to the rhythms of biological time and continents drift in geological time, while we set our watches to the precision of naval time. Time may seem easy to measure, but it can be challenging to understand. The six African artists featured in Senses of Time explore how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. Bodies stand, climb, dance, and dissolve in seven works of video and film—or ‘time-based’—art. Characters and the actions they depict repeat, resist, and reverse the expectation that time must move relentlessly forward. Senses of Time invites viewers to consider tensions between personal and political time, ritual and technological time, bodily and mechanical time. Through pacing, sequencing, looping, layering, and mirroring, diverse perceptions of time are embodied and expressed.

History repeats itself as Yinka Shonibare MBE’s European ballroom dancers in sumptuous African-print fabric gowns dramatize the absurdities of political violence, while Sammy Baloji choreographs a haunting exploration of memory and forgetting in the ruins of postcolonial deindustrialization. Sue Williamson sensitively highlights the generational gaps wrought by time, while Berni Searle addresses genealogical time in one work as ancestral family portraits are tossed by the winds and focuses on the slippages and fragility of time and personal identity in another. Moataz Nasr’s work treads upon identities distorted by the march of time as Theo Eshetu draws us into a captivating kaleidoscopic space where past, present, and future converge.

Senses of Time was co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

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Yinka Shonibare MBE, excerpt from Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004, high-definition digital video, 32 minutes (Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York). As noted by the NMAfA: “In Un Ballo in Maschera, Yinka Shonibare MBE interweaves and subverts the geographies and temporal assumptions that shape narratives of tradition and modernity. The artist draws on Giuseppe Verdi’s 1859 opera of the same name about the 18th-century Swedish king Gustav III, who was assassinated at a masked ball while his countrymen fought a war far from home. In Shonibare’s rendition, the event is an allegory for political hubris—with the artist specifically thinking of the Iraq war—and a playful attempt to reveal that the Western world has its traditions, too. . .”


Call for Papers | Visual and Material Culture Exchange across the Baltic

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on December 5, 2016

From H-ArtHist:

Visual and Material Culture Exchange across the Baltic Sea Region, 1772–1918
Greifswald University, 15–18 June 2017

Proposals due by 15 December 2016

Although the Baltic Sea has been one of the world’s greatest cultural crossroads, scholars often have overlooked cultural exchange in favor of exploring national and regional identities. Since the 1990s, the concept of a Baltic Sea Region encompassing the sea and its surrounding land has fostered transnational thinking about the region, transcending Cold War binaries of ‘East’ and ‘West’ in an effort to view the area more holistically. Still, common terminology such as ‘Scandinavia’ and ‘the Baltic States’, suggests these cultures are mutually exclusive, or, as the case with ‘Central and Eastern Europe’, ambiguously monolithic.

While historians have been examining the Baltic Sea Region—present-day Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden—as an important center of cross-cultural interaction, the area’s visual and material culture, one of the most important avenues of exchange, is often reduced to illustrative examples of historical phenomena. Art historical narratives continue to be tethered to national and ethnocentric approaches, a bias this conference seeks to complicate.

This project—two conferences (in Greifswald and Tallinn) and an anticipated edited volume—emerges from these twin desires: to study the Baltic Sea Region as a cultural crossroads and to depart from isolated, national/regional narratives. By foregrounding visual and material exchanges and the ideological or pragmatic factors that motivated them, we seek to establish common ground for viewing the Baltic Sea as a nexus of intertwined, fluctuating individuals and cultures always in conversation. We invite papers that engage material/visual culture as conceptual lenses through which to reevaluate the history, meaning, and significance of the Baltic Sea Region.

Proposals for this conference must include (in English):
a) an abstract of maximum 150 words summarizing your argument
b) academic resume
c) full contact information including e-mail

Papers will be 20 minutes in length and will be followed by discussion. The language of the conference is English. Contributions should be sent to Michelle Facos (mfacos@indiana.edu) and Bart Pushaw (bcpushaw@gmail.com) by 15 December 2016. Notification of acceptance will be by 15 January. This conference will be co-sponsored by the Baltic Borderlands Program of Greifswald University and the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg, Greifswald.

Call for Papers | Travelling Objects: Italy and the Habsburgs

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on December 5, 2016

From H-ArtHist:

Travelling Objects: Ambassadors of Cultural Transfer between Italy and the Habsburg Monarchy
Botschafter des Kulturtransfers zwischen Italien und dem Habsburgerreich
Ambasciatori dello scambio culturale tra l’italia e il regno asburgico

Rome, 19–20 May 2017

Proposals due by 15 January 2017

The international conference Travelling Objects will focus on the material aspects of cultural transfers: the exchange of paintings, designs/drawings, sculptures, or books. Our specific interest is in the movement of these inherently ambassadorial objects between Italy and the Habsburg Monarchy during the 17th and 18th centuries and their reception and role in the transmission of information and ideas between the North and the South. Special attention will be given to the agents who promoted, organized, or mediated the exchange.

Collecting without Borders
The extensive art collections of the nobility in the Habsburg lands—Liechtenstein, for instance, or Czernin, or Savoyen—as well as the imperial picture gallery were products of a massive importation of artworks from Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries. Diplomatic missions and the Grand Tour gave collectors direct access to the Italian art market. At the same time, ambassadors and envoys from Italy took advantage of their sojourns at the Imperial court to acquire and mediate works of art for their home courts.

The Art of Gift-Giving
The exchange of representative gifts was a fundamental aspect of early modern diplomacy. The act of gift-giving was a form of symbolic communication that articulated political interests, claims, or demonstrations of fidelity. Furthermore, certain gifts—notably portraits, medals, or paintings—served as signs of friendship as well as devices for the self-promotion of artists. Transnational gift-giving is also a testament of cultural exchange: regional luxury goods not only conveyed prestige and fashion trends but also transmitted technical know-how.

Traveling Objects is organized by Silvia Tammaro and Gernot Mayer (University of Vienna) and aims to link established scholars with young researchers. Scheduled to take place in Rome, 19–20 May 2017, this event is a cooperation between the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome (ÖHI) and the University of Vienna. The conference languages are Italian, German, and English. Please send your proposal (1–2 pages) and a short CV to silvia.tammaro@univie.ac.at and gernot.mayer@univie.ac.at by 15 January 2017. A partial reimbursement of travel costs will be offered.

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