Digital chromogenic print
148.5 x 180.9 x 4.1 Size (cm)
58.5 x 71.2 x 1.6 Size (in)In a series of photographic works, entitled Fake Death Pictures, Yinka Shonibare MBE stages and photographs five tableaux, which he refers to as “a re-enactment of suicide through the history of death in Painting.” The central figure in all of these works, a stand-in for Lord Nelson, is dressed the same throughout the series of photographs. While the reference paintings for the artist span a vast range of time from c.1593-1877, the majority of these paintings date from the 19th century. In the work Fake Death Picture (The Suicide - Manet ) the incongruity of the dress and time period is striking, multiple aspects of the re-interpretation of this impressionist work have been choreographed to convey different messages. In this body of work Shonibare literally and metaphorically re-colors scenes from history. By beginning within the western-centric art historical framework that often portrays scenes of elite privilege and inserting strongly symbolic textiles and actors of colour into the equation, the racial and class codes are variously subverted obscured. This subversion of codes asks the viewer to question the meanings and history that these context-specific images reference.
Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and installation, Shonibare’s work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through a sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. His work is included in prominent collections all over the world, including the Tate Collection, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C; Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others.