A monumental Yinka Shonibare sculpture that looks like a ship sail blowing in the wind will greet visitors on the southeast corner of Central Park next spring.
The 23-foot-tall work, titled Wind Sculpture (SG) I, may at first appear a departure for the British-Nigerian artist, who is best known for his large-scale headless mannequins. The connection, however, comes from Shonibare’s interest in Dutch wax prints, colorful batik-inspired patterns that are popular in Africa but are actually exported from the Netherlands.
Shonibare has described the Dutch wax print, with its rich colonial history, as the “perfect metaphor for multilayered identities.”
“His brightly colored African fabric-inspired design evokes the whole history of Indonesian trade and bringing batik to Africa, and Africa taking it as its own and developing the fabrics that have become highly identified with African dress,” Nicholas Baume, the director of the Public Art Fund, which is installing the work, told artnet News. “This work does not have the same explicit storytelling, and is not figurative in quite the same way of some of his museum tableaux, but it embodies in a beautiful way a lot of the themes and forms that he’s become well known for.”
Shonibare began creating large-scale fiberglass works that look like scraps of fabric, a series he dubbed “Wind Sculptures,” in 2013.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, acquired another of the “Wind Sculptures,” Wind Sculpture VII, installing it on the National Mall one year ago. The Public Art Fund presentation features a second generation “Wind Sculpture,” larger and more complex, with a deeply rippled surface and a hand-painted pattern in turquoise, red, and orange.
“I’ve followed Yinka’s work for many, many years,” Baume said. “Having done really ambitious installations and galleries, to see his work unfurl, literally, in public space has been really nice.”
This will be the artist’s first public work in New York.
“Yinka Shonibare MBE: Wind Sculpture (SG) I” will be on view in Central Park at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Fifth Avenue at East 60th Street; March 7–October 14, 2018.
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