TAFETA is pleased to present renowned British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE at Cape Town Art Fair in February 2017. Shown alongside two younger Nigerian artists, Niyi Olagunju and Babajide Olatunji, this trio present a cross-generational perspective into the apex of today’s contemporary art.
Champagne Kids (Fallen) (2013) is an archetypal Shonibare sculpture, and features prominently in the booth. A paradoxical depiction of celebration and depravity, the sculpture is a response to the global financial crisis which began in 2008. Its youthful figure lies on his back with a popped bottle of champagne; Shonibare’s trademark globe rotates in the would-be position of the sculpture’s head. This sphere is adorned with financial data that details the global economic meltdown. The carnivalesque poses of figures in the Champagne Kids series, of which this piece is a part, present witty and critical commentary on the banking industry whilst harnessing the theatre, colour and style for which Shonibare is known.
Also displayed are silkscreen prints from Shonibare’s Twins series (2015). Here, the artist explores the significance of twins in Yoruba folklore. Known as ibeji in Yoruba culture, twins are understood to be a source of both anxiety and celebration. They are regarded as divine beings that are capable of bringing either affluence or despair to their parents.
Traditionally conceived as wooden sculpture, the ibeji reference segues into Niyi Olagunju’s contemporary appropriation of African forms of the same medium. Producing stylized figural carvings, Olagunju continues his exploration of global trade and what he calls the “absolute commoditization of everything”. His sculptures are bisected vertically, with their inner surfaces coated in precious metals mined from the regions where these objects are originally sourced. The Congo Set (2016) explores the legacies of African artifacts sold outside of the continent in contrast to their original cultural use. The series provides a social critique of the values, monetary and otherwise, assigned to these emblems of heritage as they enter new markets.
Lastly, Babajide Olatunji will present drawings from his breakthrough series, The Tribal Marks. These meticulous, hyperrealist portraits highlight traditions of Nigerian facial scarification and present the viewer with imagined characters—each with their own story. Olatunji does not use sitters or models for his portraits. Rather, he creates fictional personalities from his imagination and references culled from Nigerian history.
These presented works merge tradition with approaches to contemporary art that resonate internationally. So doing, this selection marks a continuation of TAFETA’s commitment to showing the best of Africa and its Diaspora’s art to a global audience.
Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) (1962) was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at Byam Shaw College of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. Through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and, more recently, film and performance, Shonibare’s work explores the previously mentioned issues, alongside those of race and class. He currently lives and works in the East End of London.
Niyi Olagunju (1981) was born in Sagamu, Nigeria, and holds a National Diploma in General Art from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, and a BA Fine Arts (Hons.) degree from St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, UK. He then went on to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, USA where he obtained a MA Fine Arts with specialisation in Sculpture. Prior to his degree in Oxford, Niyi served with the British Army from 2002-2006,with service postings in Basra, Iraq & Northern Ireland. A practicing studio artist with exhibitions across three continents, his works reside in several private collections across Africa, Europe & America.
Babajide Olatunji (1989) was born Okitipupa, Nigeria and trained as a botanist at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. His debut project, The Tribal Marks Series has had a series of well-received exhibitions and art fair showcase between 2014 and 2016. His work is in the permanent collection of the Mott Warsh Collection, Michigan, USA and in several private collections in Lagos, London, New York, and Istanbul, amongst others.
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Originally set up as an art-consulting outfit in 2005, TAFETA was re-constituted as a gallery specialising in 20th century and Contemporary African Arts in 2009. Located in Fitzrovia, London, TAFETA remains the leading purveyors of some of the most important 20th century artists of African extraction. However, we continually seek out new talent in the contemporary space, successfully placing younger emerging artists in important private and institutional collections globally.