See five photographs by Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989) at Serpentine Galleries in the exhibition Grace Wales Bonner: A Time for New Dreams. Autograph has loaned the works from our collection.
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.
Themes of mysticism and ritual permeate Wales Bonner’s exhibition, which explores magical resonances within black cultural and aesthetic practices.
Grace Wales Bonner is a cultural polymath, who sees fashion as a means to explore ideas of identity and self-expression. Wales Bonner is recognised as one of the most innovative designers of her generation who is changing the ways in which we understand this discipline. Through the course of her research, she has developed a design process that involves a rich cross-pollination of sources, bringing together literary, musical and visual references. Key to her practice are long-term collaborations with other practitioners who bridge multiple disciplines and genres. Each of her fashion collections is a meditation on cultural narratives, presented within a carefully considered scenography.
Taking its title from Ben Okri’s collection of essays, A Time for New Dreams (2011), the exhibition focuses on the shrine as a symbolic pathway for imagining different worlds and possibilities. Over the course of one month, a multi-sensory installation and series of happenings invite contemplation and activate the gallery. The exhibition features an assemblage of site-specific installations and shrines. Interested in the improvisations, intentions and uses of shrines throughout black histories, Wales Bonner views these spiritual structures as material portals into multiple frames of experience. Drawing upon the images and rhythms of rituals and ceremonies from all over the world, she moves across time and space by bringing these references into dialogue.
This exhibition focuses on Wales Bonner’s rigorous research across multiple geographies and temporalities, culminating in the presentation of her forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, Mumbo Jumbo. Conjuring and exploring various characters, their dress, and the worlds and spaces they inhabit, the collection features certain protagonists, such as the artist-shaman, a West African spiritual healer, and a gathering of Howard University intellectuals. At its close, the exhibition becomes an environment for the characters to inhabit.
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.
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.
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 forRotimi Fani-Kayode
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list