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10,000 book installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE explores British cultural immigration
Yinka Shonibare MBE, The British Library. A co-commission by HOUSE 2014 and Brighton Festival, 2014. Photo: Jonathan Bassett.

BRIGHTON.- Brighton Festival and HOUSE, Brighton’s festival of visual art and domestic space, announce the opening of Yinka Shonibare MBE’s The British Library a new sculptural installation exploring themes of immigration, migration and refuge, co-commissioned by HOUSE and Brighton Festival 2014.

Comprised of approximately 10,000 books bound in Shonibare’s trademark African Dutch wax batik fabric, The British Library responds to both sides of the immigration debate, both for and against. Printed in gold foil on the spines of 3,500 of the books are the names of notable British immigrants who throughout history have made significant contributions to British culture and society, including those opposed to immigration.

Presented in the dramatic Edwardian surroundings of the Old Reference Library in Brighton Museum and Art Gallery the books are organised on the library’s original wood bookcases. Close to collections of art, fashion and world art, the Library has been used for research for almost a hundred years by academics, historians, writers and local residents. The building stands on what was once the site of the stable block for the iconic Royal Pavilion with its Chinese inspired interiors and Indian architecture.

Yinka Shonibare said, “Whilst the installation is a celebration of the ongoing contributions made to British society by people who have arrived here from other parts of the world or whose ancestors came to Britain as immigrants, it does not exclude the points of view of those who object to it. The British Library is inspired by the current debates about immigration and the public response to the new presence of Romanians in Britain”.

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at Central Saint Martins College and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA. Recent notable solo exhibitions include; Selected Works, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Royal Museums Greenwich, London, (2013); Dreaming Rich, Pearl Lam Gallery, Hong Kong (2013); FABRIC-ATION, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield; touring to GL Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark (2013-2014); POP!, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, (2013); FOCUS: Yinka Shonibare MBE, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, (2013); Imagined as the Truth, San Diego Art Museum, San Diego, (2012); El Futuro del Pasado, Alcalá 31 Centros de Arte, Madrid; touring to Centro de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2011); Human Culture: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2011-2010); Looking Up MBE, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Monaco (2010) and El Futuro del Pasado, Alcalá 31 Centros de Arte, Madrid, touring to Centro de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, (2011).

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