Yinka Shonibare MBE | Being an Artist

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In his London studio, artist Yinka Shonibare MBE reflects on what it means for him to be an artist, how he views his occupation as a utopian pursuit, and how the lines between the personal and professional aspects of his life are blurred.

Known for using batik in costumed dioramas that explore race and colonialism, Yinka Shonibare MBE also employs painting, sculpture, photography, and film in work that disrupts and challenges our notions of cultural identity. Taking on the honorific 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.

Yinka Shonibare MBE is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Transformation of the Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. A mid-career survey of his work is currently on view at the National Museum of African Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (through March 7, 2010)

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Ian Serfontein. Sound: Paul Stadden. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: Yinka Shonibare MBE. Thanks: Ann Marie Peña.

Contributor
Wesley Miller is the associate curator at ART21. Miller co-curates the television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. He is also co-creator of the series New York Close Up.
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