Materials:Somerset Tub Sized 410 gsm paper, Wood, Fabric
Dimensions:70 x 50 cm
Credit:Presented by the Contemporary Art Society with support of the University of Liverpool, 2022/23
Ownership history:Purchased from Cristea Roberts Gallery, London by the Contemporary Art Society with support of the University of Liverpool, June 2022; presented to Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool, 2022/23
Unstructured Icons is made of six woodblock prints, which are housed in a wooden portfolio box. In this series Shonibare responds to historical Western portraiture, overlaying them with fabric and stylised African ritual masks. King shows Henry VIII c.1537 and Queen I and Queen II show Elizabeth I c.1546 and c.1575 respectively. The original portrait of Henry VIII, which is part of the Walker Gallery’s collection in Liverpool, shows the King as taller, younger and healthier than he was at the time it was painted. If this portrait was commissioned to show his power, how does its message change when his face is obscured by an African mask and covered with Ankara patterns?
The Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M) is part of the University of Liverpool, which originated in the 1880s and is such inexorably bound up in colonial legacies. Both VG&M and the University are hoping to redress historical injustices through a focused effort on diversifying their collections. This includes being part of The World Reimagined Project, a national initiative to give a platform for learning about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, colonialism and Black achievement, for which Shonibare is one of the lead artists. Portraits make up a large portion of the VG&M collection, and these prints will offer a way to springboard discussion.They first went on display in October 2022 during Black History Month.
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