Rotimi Fani- Kayode

Autumn 2021

Curated by Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai


Rotimi Fani-Kayode's photographs constitute a profound narrative of sexual and cultural difference - seminal in their exploration of the politics of desire, diaspora, displacement, spirituality and the black male body.

Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of 34, Fani-Kayode remains one of the most significant names in the history of black photography.

Autograph's retrospective Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989), in partnership with Light Work, features a selection of his more important works. See it in 2020, on tour to the Georgetown University Art Galleries in Washington D.C.


1221 36th Street N.W.

Washington D.C. 20057



This touring exhibition is in development. Join our mailing list to receive news about Autograph's work.

"On three counts I am an outsider: in terms of sexuality; in terms of geographical and cultural dislocation; and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for"

Rotimi Fani-Kayode

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Visit the Georgetown University gallery website


Buy Autograph's book of Rotimi Fani-Kayode


Rotimi Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a prominent Yoruba family before moving to England following the 1966 outbreak of civil war in Nigeria. He later studied at Georgetown University and the Pratt Institute in the USA, before settling permanently in London in 1983 where he lived and worked until his early death from a short and unexpected illness on December 21 1989.

During his tragically brief six-year career, Fani-Kayode produced a complex body of photographic work, exploring themes of race, sexuality, spirituality, and the self.  His masterfully staged and crafted portraits, sometimes quietly monochromatic and at other times rich in saturated color, stand as powerful, resolutely ambiguous, visual statements. A seminal figure in contemporary art photography, the year 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the artist’s death; at the core of Fani-Kayode’s practice is an important emphasis on the cultural politics of difference.

A prominent figure in the Black British art scene, Fani-Kayode was the founding member and first chairman of Autograph in 1988.

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His photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, with numerous recent solo exhibitions in London, Boston, New York and Cape Town. In 2003, his work featured in the African Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Italy and in 2011 in ARS 11 at Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland.

Fani-Kayode’s works are represented across the world in collections of numerous public institutions and private collectors including Tate, Guggenheim Museum, New York, Victoria & Albert Museum, Walther Family Foundation, Harvard University’s Hutchins Centre, Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art and the collection of Yinka Shonibare MBE, amongst others.

An episode of the recent BBC Radio 4 program on the History of Art was dedicated to his work in March 2018. Many of his photographs were created in collaboration with his late partner Alex Hirst and are collected in the posthumous 1996 publication Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Alex Hirst: Photographs. His work is represented by Autograph, London.


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Sample Logo
Light Work

Banner image: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Twins [detail], 1989. 

Page images, from top left: 1) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Cargo of the Middle Passage,1989. 2) Rotimi Fani Kayode, Untitled, 1987-88. 3) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Adebiyi, 1989. 4)Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Nothing to Lose XII, from the series Bodies of Experience, 1989. 5) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Tulip Boy, 1989.