Yinka Shonibare CBE | Art Basel Artwork in Focus | Stephen Friedman Gallery

Martin Cid

Artwork in Focus: Art Basel 2020. Yinka Shonibare CBE, ‘British Library Collections (Writers)’

For the duration of Art Basel’s second Online Viewing Room, Stephen Friedman Gallery is highlighting one work every day from its virtual booth. Each focussed newsletter offers a closer look into the artist’s process and the themes raised by the selected work. Over the next three days, the gallery will be sharing works by Denzil Forrester, Marina Adams and Leilah Babirye.


Yinka Shonibare CBE‘s ‘British Library Collections’ series is at once a celebration of the diversity of the British population and an instigator for debate. Each collection is composed of a set of shelves filled with books bound in Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax batik fabric. Inscribed in gold lettering on the spines of many of the books are the names of people, both celebrated and less well known, who have shaped the British cultural landscape and contributed to their field of expertise. The collection categories include: activists; actors; artists; business leaders; dancers; designers; female artists; historians; musicians and sports personalities.

Each collection honours the ongoing contributions made to British society by people who have arrived in the country from other parts of the world, or whose ancestors came to Britain as immigrants. In addition, each collection also gives voice to the opposing side of the debate by featuring the names of those who have objected to immigration on some book spines. Whilst each ‘British Library Collection’ celebrates the significant contributions that people who have come to Great Britain have made to the culture and life of their adopted land, Shonibare’s work does not exclude the points of view of those who oppose Britain’s immigration policy. Shonibare invites the viewer to consider the issue of global migration and explore the complexity of this relevant and emotive subject.

Click here to explore the OVR.

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