2018 Triennial Archive

Yinka Shonibare, MBE (RA)

Cleveland Public Library
325 Superior Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44114
Mon–Sat: 10–6

The American Library

The American Library is a timely sequel to the Yinka Shonibare’s 2014 installation, The British Library. Both works are dedicated to the ideas supporting open borders, freedom of speech, educational rights, and blended heritage. The American Library is comprised of approximately six thousand books, each wrapped in colorful African wax cloth, a prominent feature of the artist’s work. Stamped in gold upon each spine is the name of a first or second generation immigrant to the United States who has contributed significantly to a particular field of art, science or American culture, or the name of an immigration dissenter who opposed such ideas.

Shonibare states that “the books in The American Library act as metaphors for the autobiography of the individuals named on the books. It is incredibly important to point in the work to the emancipatory power of culture through a certain kind of reading, by that I mean the diverse inheritance of pedagogy. Ironically the digital world beyond social media is the largest ever access to education throughout human history, It will have a far more radical impact on the production and sharing of knowledge. It is the new education system.”

Have you or your family immigrated to the United States? Or perhaps you or your family were part of The Great Migration or another mass migration of people within the United States? If so we would love to hear your stories. Please submit your stories and/or photographs here, or over on social media using the hashtag #FRONTart2018. Selected submissions will be featured on theamericanlibraryinstallation.com.


Artist Biography

Yinka Shonibare was born in London, UK in 1962 and grew up in the UK and Lagos, Nigeria. He studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London in the 1980s and graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1991.

Over the past decade, he has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and installation, Shonibare’s work examines race, class, and the construction of cultural identity through sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.

In 2004, he was awarded the decoration of Member of the ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ (MBE) and was also nominated for the Turner Prize.

He has participated in many international exhibitions including Documenta 11, Kassel in 2002 and the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and then toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. His public art commission, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle opened on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2010. In 2013, he was nominated as a Royal Academician.

Recent exhibitions include ‘Prejudice at Home; A Parlour, A Library and a Room’ at James Cohan Gallery, New York; ‘Diaspora Pavilion’, Palazzo Pisani at the 57th Venice Biennale; ‘Enlightened Princesses; Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World’ at Yale Center of British Art and Kensington Palace, London. Selected solo exhibitions include Gemeentmuseum Helmond, The Netherlands and Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2016); Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, South Korea and DHC/ART Fondation for l’Art Contemporain, Montréal, Montreal (2015); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK (2013); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, USA (2013); San Diego Art Museum, San Diego, USA (2012); MCA Sydney, Sydney and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2008) among others.

The American Library is funded in part by VIA Art Fund and The City of Cleveland’s Cable Television Minority Arts and Education Fund.