West Africa

The Art of Fabric: Yinka Shonibare at Kunsthalle Vogelmann

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Yinka Shonibare, known for his striking use of colourful African fabrics,  is one of the featured artists in the group exhibition ‘The Art of Fabric: Textile as Artistic Material’ presented at Kunsthalle Vogelmann in Heilbronn, Germany.

Installation view 
Image courtesy of the artist

 Featuring an array of textile works, The Art of Fabric: Textile as Artistic Material explores the multifaceted role of fabric in art, spanning from classical modernism to contemporary times. It depicts fabric as the material most intimately entwined with our everyday experiences, tracing its iterations of tulle, lace, weaving, and cloth. In this group show, textile works are collected to address the sensual, emotional and personal, cultural, economic, and political trappings of textiles.

Other artists featured include Magdelena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Caroline Achaintre and Sheila Hicks. 

Image courtesy of the artist

Hardly any other material is so present in our living environment, none is so close to us physically: Substances are omnipresent as a protective layer between people and the environment. In textiles, sensual, emotional and personal experiences are combined with social and cultural dimensions. Political, economic and ecological questions are also raised. There are numerous thematic points of contact for artists. As a soft, yielding material per se, fabric constantly challenges new form experiments. From delicate tulle arrangements to filigree plastic lace to massive weaving, amazing design possibilities open up. A selection of over 40 international positions shows the fascinating diversity of textile art from classical modernism to the present,” the exhibition text reads. 

Yinka Shonibare creates work that examines racial and socioeconomic themes through a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, photography, film, tapestries and public works. His work questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. He is known for his use of brightly coloured ‘African’ batik fabric. The Dutch mass-produced batik was first inspired by Indonesian art, then sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a signifier of African identity and independence. 

In 2004, Shonibare was nominated for the Turner Prize, and in 2013, the Royal Academy of London selected him as a Royal Academician. In 2004 and 2019, he received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), respectively. In 2021, Shonibare received an honorary degree from The Courtauld Institute in London as well as the coveted Art Icon Award from Whitechapel Gallery in London. 

To mark Sharjah Biennial’s 30th anniversary in February 2023, Shonibare was commissioned to create a series of new works for the exhibition. He had a solo show at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in April 2022, and the exhibited works spanned three decades of his practice. He was commissioned to transform the Gallery at sketch, London as part of a long-term programme of artist-conceived restaurants, which opened to the public in March 2022. Shonibare’s largest European survey exhibition ‘End of Empire’, opened at Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria in May 2021.


Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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