RINGLING MUSEUM’S ART OF OUR TIME PRESENTS SPECIAL EXHIBITION
FEATURING ELABORATE PERIOD COSTUMES WITH AFRICAN VISUAL MOTIFS
Sarasota, FL — July 30, 2010 — In a new exhibition entitled Yinka Shonibare MBE: Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play visitors to the Astor Galleries, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art’s period rooms, are drawn to seven headless, child sized mannequins clad in traditional Victorian dress. Strikingly each are wearing brightly colored and richly-patterned “African” prints made of Dutch wax fabric.
The children are meant to be beneficiaries of their families’ hard work, representing the aristocratic and overindulged youth of the 19th century. Spread throughout the Astor Galleries the mannequins appear to interact with each other in the opulent interiors of the Museum’s Gilded Age period rooms, symbolic of the material wealth associated with the residences of the privileged class. A little girl with a doll plays beneath the Concert Grand Piano while appearing to keep an eye on a boy with a marionette. Close by, a girl is skipping rope. A boy playing marbles is seemingly unaware of a girl on a scooter who appears headed right for him.
“Yinka Shonibare’s work blends historical styles with ‘African’ visual motifs,” said Dr. Matthew McLendon, Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art for The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “This installation of Yinka’s elaborate period costumes within The Ringling Museum’s period rooms creates a contrast between the historic and post-modern. This exhibition explores African identity and European colonialism in an, at times, playful manner. It is indicative of the culturally-diverse works of art being presented by The Ringling Museum’s Art of Our Time program, which is an on-going effort to introduce Ringling patrons to pioneers and leading artists from the modern and contemporary world of visual and performing arts.”
A self-described ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare is a British-based artist, of Nigerian descent, whose work spans the media of painting, sculpture, photography and filmmaking. His art explores themes of history and its legacy for future generations, how we live in the present and the cycles or patterns that repeat across time.
Shonibare is best known for employing Dutch wax fabric in his work, which he favors because it is a post-colonial export produced in Europe for African audiences. Dutch wax prints were developed in Holland in the 1800s and sold by merchants traveling the trade routes between Java and Holland. West African people along the trade route were so drawn to the bright bold Javanese fabric that it gradually became a national cultural dress style. These eye-catching prints are worn in parts of Africa, namely Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and several other countries. Shonibare uses the fabric to decorate canvases, three-dimensional landscapes and to construct period costumes.
Yinka Shonibare studied at Goldsmiths College, University of London, as well as the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. His work can be seen in both public and private collections throughout the world. In 2005, Shonibare was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire, MBE. He uses this distinction despite, and because of, its ironic nature when viewed with his work. In 2004, he was a finalist for the Turner Prize awarded by Tate Britain to the top contemporary artist under the age of 50.
Organized by The Brooklyn Museum, the Yinka Shonibare MBE: Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play exhibition runs at The Ringling Museum of Art from July 30 to October 24, 2010. It will also anchor the visual arts showcase during the 2010 Ringling International Arts Festival, next on the Ringling Museum’s Art of Our Time initiative. Held in Sarasota and Bradenton, Fla. October 13-17, the five-day festival highlights both visual and performing arts. A partnership between Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art and New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Festival includes world and U.S. premieres of music, dance and theater presented by artists from around the world in area theaters, including The Historic Asolo Theater, The Cook Theatre and The Mertz Theatre.
General Admission includes the Ringling Museum of Art, special exhibitions, Ca d’Zan Mansion, Circus Museum, and Mable’s historic Rose Garden, all on 66 acres of lushly landscaped grounds. Adults are $25; senior citizens (65 and over) are $20; children ages 6-17 are $10. Free Admission for children 5 and under accompanied by an adult, museum members. Advance tickets are available by calling 941.358.3180. Visit www.ringling.org for more information.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation. It preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art; Cà d’Zan, the Ringling historic mansion; the Circus Museum; the Original Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.
 Concert Grand Piano, 1876, Weber Piano Company, Rosewood and brass, Gift of Dr. William E. Wallace, 1980