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Artists' Choices - Yinka Shonibare: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water

July 26, 2010-January 8, 2011
Location: Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery
Artist: Yinka Shonibare and others
Curator: Yinka Shonibare and Talia Amar
Media: Mixed media
Yinka Shonibare MBE disrupts the accepted order of things. After choosing more than 200 objects from the Museum’s diverse collections, he detaches them from their usual context (already far removed from their place of origin) and creates a jumble of blurred boundaries. The alternative arrangement he proposes returns to the four archetypal elements that give the exhibition its title. At first, this seems more like disorder, or at least something very different from “museum order.” But then the relationships between objects become clear and a composite work of art takes shape before the viewer’s eyes.

Each of the four platforms is a crowded stage on which a drama revolving around one central idea takes place: cultural cross-pollination, resulting in cultural hybridity. The Victorian figures Shonibare created for the exhibition and clothed in his trademark “African” fabric also underscore hybridity through the Dandy, a character both inside and outside the establishment. For all of its contrasts, Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water inspires hope for cultural tolerance and belief in a common denominator linking all of humanity.