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Object of the month: April 2016

Yinka Shonibare's 'Cheeky Little Astronomer' (2013)

Published 1 April 2016

As Yinka Shonibare RA prepares to wrap the Academy’s Burlington Gardens façade in his bold designs, the RA Collections team takes a look at one of his distinctive works.

  • Yinka Shonibare RA studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths’ College. Shonibare’s West African heritage has been at the heart of his work since he started exhibiting in 1988, when he began using ‘Dutch-wax’ dyed fabrics, commonly found in Western Africa, both for wall-mounted works (as pseudo paintings) and for sculpted figures. He was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

    His work explores colonialism and postcolonialism through his sculptural figures clothed in Dutch Wax printed fabric. This work, Cheeky Little Astronomer (pictured), was originally a specially commissioned piece for the Royal Observatory. Displayed in the Astronomer’s Royal Apartments, it reflected the dual nature of that space as it relates to the idea of the family home and our relationship to the stars. Within the context of the RA Collection, the sculpture brings to mind the process of looking at art and observing across time and space the development of British art from Academy’s foundation in 1768 to the present day.

  • Yinka Shonibare RA, Cheeky Little Astronomer

    Yinka Shonibare RA, Cheeky Little Astronomer, 2013.

    Fibre glass life-sized mannequin, dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, resin, chair, globe and telescope. Photo: R.A./Steve White © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • Yinka Shonibare was elected an Academician in 2013 and has recently completed a wrap work enclosing the facade of Burlington Gardens while it undergoes restoration in preparation for the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary in 2018.

    Yinka Shonibare’s wrap artwork can be seen outside the RA from Burlington Gardens from May 2016.

    April’s Artist of the month is William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944). Read more from the RA Collection.