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Yinka Shonibare CBE RA in "Transformation"

“My work, all along, has been a critique of Empire,” says Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, adopting the honorific title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, with willful irony, as part of his name. Shown in his London studio, Shonibare is working on his first series of drawings in twelve years, taking as his subject climate change. The artist is also on hand for the installation of a retrospective of sculptures—headless, “post-racial,” mannequins dressed in vibrant costumes—at the MCA Sydney.

Acting as the protagonist in two photographic series, Shonibare explores personal themes of leisure, excess, mortality, vanity and physical disability. The final work in the segment is a masked ballet that recounts the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden. “Power creates excess,” he asserts, while playfully admitting, “I also, actually, would like to have the trappings of wealth myself, even though I may be criticizing it.”

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Associate Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Nick Ravich. Production Coordinator: Larissa Nikola-Lisa. Consulting Director: Charles Atlas. Editor: Lizzie Donahue. Director of Photography: Philippe Charluet, Bob Elfstrom, Richard Numeroff, Ian Serfontein, & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Mark Cornish, Doug Dunderdale, Roger Phenix, Paul Stadden, & Merce Williams. Assistant Camera: Gideon Jennings, Clair Popkin, Michael Pruitt-Bruun, Adriano Vasquez, & Claudia Woloshin. On Screen Interviews: Ann Marie Peña & Damon McCarthy.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Direction & Design: Open, New York. Graphics Animation: Maurice Caicedo & Urosh Perishic. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins & Greg Smith. Sound Mix: Cory Melious. Artwork Animation: Frank Ferrigno. Assistant Editor: Ahmed Amer, Janine Cappadona, Paulo Padilha, Joaquin Perez, Leana Siochi, & Ken Yapelli.

Artworks Courtesy of: Paul McCarthy; Cindy Sherman; Yinka Shonibare MBE; Hauser & Wirth, Zürich, London, New York; James Cohan Gallery, New York; Metro Pictures, New York; & Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees; Michael Ashburn; Amy Baumann; Travis Call; Pat Casteel and Steve Wylie; Ginger Cofield; Ralph Cuccurullo; Jon Dawe; Dog Bark Sound; Kym Elphinstone; Frame:Runner, NYC; Thomas Harris; Tom Heman; Naotaka Hiro; Rachel Kent; Angela Kunicky; Mark Lan; Margaret Lee; Sheila Lynch; The McCarthy family; Craig McIntyre; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Thrift Shop; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; The National Gallery of Victoria, Sydney; Paul McCarthy Studio, Los Angeles; Christopher Rawson; Andre Ribuoli; Ann-Marie Rounkle; Susan Schneider; Keith Shapiro; Skarstedt Gallery, New York; Leily Soleimani; Jessica Sonders; Sound Lounge; Lauri Stern; Jacobine Van Der Meer; Kara Vander Weg; Tony Volante; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; James Woodward; & John Wyver.

Additional Art21 Staff: Beth Allen, Mary Cook, Joe Fusaro, Jessica Hamlin, Jennifer H. Lee, Marc Mayer, Jonathan Munar, Katherine Payne, Kelly Shindler, & Sara Simonson.

Interns: Maggie Bordonaro, Krystle DeMauro, Natalia P. Good, Sophie Grant, Pinchang Huang, Joy Lai, Rachele Lam, Jamie Leonardi, Melanie K. Mambo, Pauli Ochi, Sara Odam, David Roesing, Nicole Ross, Nicole Sansone, & Julia Wright.

Public Relations: Goodman Media International. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Valerie Riley. Travel Agent: Lita Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Art in the Twenty-First Century Season Five provided by: National Endowment for the Arts; Public Broadcasting Service; Agnes Gund; Bloomberg; The Nathan Cummings Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The Broad Art Foundation; Korea Foundation; & The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

Known for using batik in costumed dioramas that explore race and colonialism, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA also employs painting, sculpture, photography, and film in work that disrupts and challenges our notions of cultural identity. Taking on the honorific CBE (and previously MBE) as part of his name in everyday use, Shonibare plays with the ambiguities and contradictions of his attitude toward the Establishment and its legacies of colonialism and class. In multimedia projects that reveal his passion for art history, literature, and philosophy, Shonibare provides a critical tour of Western civilization and its achievements and failures.

“My work, all along, has been a critique of Empire.”

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA)

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Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

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Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

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Welcome Guests

In this interview, conducted in October 2008 at Shonibare Studio in London, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA talks about his collaborative process, his vision for an artist’s residency and community (now called Guest Projects), and the meaning of failure.