Yinka Shonibare’s bold and humorous works at Yorkshire Sculpture Park have been receiving lots of praise in the press. To coincide with this larger exhibition, Stephen Friedman Gallery is holding a smaller set of four installations across both its gallery spaces in Mayfair.
Three of his works focus on the excess of our materialistic culture with a swipe at the banking sector. In the most arresting scene a modern day ‘last supper’ has descended into chaos with broken crockery and empty bottles covering the floor as the headless diners continue their hedonistic partying.
The lack of heads and African dress of the sculptures mimics the faceless nature of those employees who have been savaged in the press over their bonuses and lack of foresight, yet most are outside the public eye and so remain unknown. In the adjacent galleries the heads of champagne swilling figures are replaced with globes that track the falling indexes of global markets over recent years, making for a sobering contrast to their drunken poses.
Across the road the focus shifts to the cross-fertilisation of African and Western cultures, a pertinent subject for an artist who has spent his life between Lagos and London. There is a deliberate sense of ambiguity in his work, on one hand hinting at the negative impact of Western warfare, but also at the materialistic excess which is all too readily adopted by developing countries.
Shonibare’s sense of humour is key to making this exhibition a success. After all it would be a bit rich for the art world to take a sobering dig at the banking sector for their material wild excesses, when certain artists are selling works for millions of pounds and art is often a major benefactor of a flourishing finance market.
Yinka Shonibare – POP! is on at Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Gardens, W1S 3AN until 20 April. Admission is free.