Yinka Shonibare C.B.E. | Suspended States

12 April – 1 September 2024

Yinka Shonibare C.B.E.

Suspended States


“Suspended States 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.” – Yinka Shonibare CBE
Artist Profile
Yinka Shonibare C.B.E.
For over 30 years, Yinka Shonibare CBE has used Western art history and literature to explore contemporary culture and national identities. Suspended States is the artist’s first London solo exhibition in over 20 years. It showcases new works, interrogating how systems of power affect sites of refuge, debates on public statues, the ecological impact of colonialisation and the legacy of imperialism on conflict and consequential attempts at peace. The exhibition includes two new major installations at Serpentine South. Sanctuary City (2024) is comprised of miniature buildings representing places of refuge for persecuted and vulnerable groups. The War Library (2024) consists of 5,000 books bound in Dutch wax print representing conflicts and peace treaties. Throughout the exhibition Shonibare’s signature use of Dutch wax print symbolises 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, where it later was referred to as ‘African print.’ In Decolonised Structures (2022-2023) the artist paints these patterns on his smaller-scale replicas of London’s large public sculptures. Reconstructing colonial figures such as Queen Victoria and Herbert Kitchener, Shonibare questions the role and presence of these monuments. Additional works highlight luxurious lifestyles supported by colonisation and the importance of African art to global culture. Shonibare also draws links between the history of xenophobia and the impact of colonisation on the environment in his quilts, including his new series African Bird Magic (2024). The exhibition also highlights Shonibare’s social practice including his Guest Project experimental space in Hackney and the Guest Artist Space (G.A.S.) Foundation he launched in Nigeria in 2019.