Leading British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE has been awarded the Robson Orr TenTen Award 2020 by the Government Art Collection
. The new work was unveiled at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office on Tuesday 6 October 2020 by Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State (Minister for Digital and Culture) and Penny Johnson CBE, Director of the GAC.
The Robson Orr TenTen Award is presented jointly by the Government Art Collection with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and is sponsored by leading philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr. Every year a British artist is commissioned to create a unique, limited edition print to be shown in diplomatic buildings across the world. A small number are available for purchase through a collaboration with the pioneering philanthropic arts organisation Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the first two awards given to Hurvin Anderson (2018) and Tacita Dean (2019).
Shonibares woodcut print and fabric collage Hibiscus and the Rose is a beautifully vivid encounter between two scarlet floral blooms. As a child in Nigeria Yinka Shonibare would pick the nectar from the hibiscus flower to eat, whilst the rose evokes his British identity. Conscious that the prints will hang in UK government buildings around the world, Shonibare has created an image that is both personal and universal.
Yinka Shonibare CBE said: Hibiscus and the Rose is an expression of cultural exchange between Britain and the rest of the world. The hibiscus is a genus of numerous species of herbs, shrubs, and trees in the mallow family (Malvaceae) widely found in many of the warmer temperate Commonwealth countries. The rose is the national flower of England and has a long tradition within English symbolism. An exploration of Britain's colonial past and its current relationship with its former colonies is symbolised through the Hibiscus and the Rose.
The interplay of race, place, history, politics and class in the construction of cultural identity is at the core of Yinka Shonibares diverse practice. Coming to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his headless figures festooned in 17th-century clothing made from Dutch wax Indonesian batik fabrics synonymous with African design, were shown globally leading to a Turner Prize nomination in 2004, and a prominent installation in Documenta XI in 2008. Two years later saw his first public art commission, Nelsons Ship in a Bottle, displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, a maquette of which is in the Government Art Collection, with his now hallmark use of Dutch wax fabrics acting as sails. The cultural entanglement of this textile through industry and design is at the crux of Shonibares work that critiques a mono-cultural narrative, and exposes complex global relationships, particularly between Africa and Europe.
Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: "The TenTen award celebrates how the Government Art Collection showcases the best of British art, creativity and culture around the world by giving a fantastic opportunity to a contemporary artist. Yinka Shonibare's piece is a brilliant addition to the collection.
Thank you to Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr, whose generous philanthropy makes the TenTen project possible."
Yinka Shonibare CBE was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art, first at Byam School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA.
Shonibares work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. His trademark material is the brightly coloured African batik fabric he buys in London. This type of fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence.
Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or MBE, a title he has added to his professional name. Shonibare was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at Documenta 11, Kassel, in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on to an international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and internationally at leading museums. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and then toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He was elected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy, London in 2013. In January 2019, Yinka Shonibare was awarded the decoration of CBE.