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Artist Spotlight: Yinka Shonibare MBE

November 5, 2009

One of the Dallas Museum of Art’s most recent and exciting exhibitions, Performance/Art, centers around contemporary works of art. Along with paintings and installations, the exhibition includes two films, one by Eija-Liisa Ahtila and the other by Yinka Shonibare. Shonibare’s film, Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), is based on an opera by the same name by Giuseppe Verdi and is a visual spectacle that will attract and intrigue visitors.

Shonibare, Un ballo in maschera

Un ballo in maschera, Yinka Shonibare MBE

While the story underlying Shonibare’s film is interesting (the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden), so too is the real life of the artist. Shonibare was born in London in 1962 but raised in Nigeria. This duality of experience and identity is explored in much of his work, which extends beyond film and includes sculpture, painting, photography, and installation. As apparent in the brilliant costumes in Un ballo in maschera, Shonibare frequently works with dyed fabrics which complicate issues of history, colonialism, and our global economy.

Shonibare’s art delves into complex ideas, often layered with multiple points of view, and he emphasizes the aesthetic experience in the process. Some works, such as Lady on Unicycle and Hopscotch, both large-scale installations, include mannequins dressed in Dutch wax-printed cotton. Others, like Dorian Gray, are two-dimensional and include less flamboyant imagery, in this case neutral-colored prints.

Since being awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2005, Shonibare has taken the honorary title as part of everyday usage of his name. This small action hints at what much of his artwork overtly discusses, specifically the ambiguous and contradictory relationship he has with his nationality and identity. More information about Yinka Shonibare and his artwork can be found online at Art:21.

If you would like to experience Un ballo in maschera as well the other works in Performance/Art and All the World’s a Stage, come to our Teacher Workshop this Saturday, November 7, where we will be going through the exhibitions and talking about performance. To sign up, e-mail teacherprograms@DallasMuseumofArt.org or select the Teacher Programs link on our ticketing Web site  to register online.

Logan Acton
McDermott Teaching Programs Intern

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