Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA: navigating tangled histories

Celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs with a series of 20 articles on 20 featured artists.

Shonibare, who was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019, is one of the artistic pioneers in postcolonial discourse. Born in 1962, the British-Nigerian artist became world-renowned in 2002 for his installation "Gallantry and Criminal Conversation" at Documenta 11, curated by Okwui Enwezor.


In his works, Shonibare often works with bright colours and "traditional" patterns of "Dutch-Wax" fabrics, which are popular in Africa but actually originate from Indonesia and only arrived in Africa in the 19th century in the course of colonisation via the Netherlands. In doing so, he questions Eurocentric notions of exoticism and the relationship between "African" aesthetics and Western modernity.


“African Bird Magic” at Frieze London & Frieze Masters 2023

At Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2023, Shonibare’s works were presented in the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management lounges in an exhibition titled “African Bird Magic”. At a time of environmental emergency, the birds in the exhibition are symbolic protectors of endangered African wildlife as well as symbols of African empowerment, challenging the consequences of Western colonial industrialisation.


For years, Shonibare’s works have been part of the Deutsche Bank Collection in London. In 2021, he designed a special edition sculpture titled “Hybrid Mask II (K’peliye’e)” to support the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship. The programme supports emerging curators from POC (people of colour) backgrounds in the UK to gain a foothold in the art world.  

Re-evaluating Africa’s contribution to modernism

A key work by Shonibare in the collection is the hand-embroidered patchwork of "Modern Magic VI" (2022), composed of fabrics and Dutch Wax, exploring how African aesthetics have shaped the expression of Western modernism. The work was presented in Shonibare's exhibition "Restitution of the Mind and Soul," which explores Africa's unappreciated contribution to modernity to date – the theft not only of artifacts, but of art, thought and culture. This includes the ambivalent role of artists. The "primitive" objects Shonibare picks up, such as the mask on "Modern Magic VI," were once in the collections of Pablo Picasso and Tristan Tzara. In this way, he indirectly cites the work of two artists whose concise formal language Shonibare repeatedly reinterprets.

About this article series

This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture

Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.


Please find more information on Deutsche Bank’s art programme at db.com/art and follow us on Instagram @deutschebankart


Main image: Portrait, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA. Photography by Tom Jamieson 2023.


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Deutsche Bank Art & Culture

Art & Culture


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