Yinka Shonibare steps into the curator’s seat with a sharp survey of African art

Talisman Stephen Friedman Gallery
Installation view of ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
(Image credit: Mark Blower)

Mayfair gallerist Stephen Friedman has represented British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare for 22 years. Together they have grown to become linchpins of the British art scene, with Friedman having dedicated six solo shows to his Turner Prize-winning friend.

Their latest exhibition, entitled ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’, celebrates Shonibare as curator. Sticking to themes close to his heart – identity politics, African resistance, the civil rights movement – Shonibare has selected 46 artists of African origin and from across the diaspora for the show, and placed paintings alongside sculpture and drawings spanning the early 20th century to present day.

Walls with paintings and sculptures in exhibition halls


(Image credit: Mark Blower)

Installation view of ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photography: Mark Blower

Big guns such as American sculptor Melvin Edwards and Kehinde Wiley (whose 2017 portrait of Barack Obama was the first of any US President by an African-American) appear alongside lesser-known names such as Lagos-based Temitayo Ogunbiyi, who is transforming former land fill sites in the Nigerian city into childrens’ play parks, and Whitfield Lovell, who creates exquisite charcoal drawings of African-American faces and surrounds them with timeworn, everyday objects.

‘Most people know Yinka as an artist but fewer know him as a curator,’ says Friedman, who was inspired to host the exhibition after seeing Shonibare’s curatorial skills at work at last year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. ‘A talisman is thought to possess transformative energy, like a lucky charm, a fetish, amulet, mascot or juju,’ he adds. ‘All the work, either consciously or subconsciously, has a subversive or political message and doesn’t necessarily conform to the Western vision of art. Like Yinka, all the artists in the show view their work as talismans, or vehicles for change.’

Shonibare adds, ‘At a time when the extreme right is on the rise, a strong statement like this will resonate beyond the exhibition. ‘It’s important we show our diversity; we sing, we dance, we perform rituals and we want to share them with everybody.’

Glyth , 2018, by Larry Achiampong, archival C-type print

Glyth (series 2), 2018, by Larry Achiampong, archival C-type print. 

(Image credit: © Larry Achiampong. Courtesy of the artist and Copperfield, London)

Talisman Stephen Friedman Gallery's wall filled with paintings and sculptures

Installation view of ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

(Image credit: Mark Blower)

Afrikan Boy Sittin by Hassan Hajjaj

Afrikan Boy Sittin’, 2013/1434, by Hassan Hajjaj. 

(Image credit: © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the artist and Vigo Gallery, London UK)

View of sculptures at Talisman Stephen Friedman Gallery

Installation view of ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

(Image credit: Mark Blower)

Sculptures and paintings at Talisman Stephen Friedman Gallery

Installation view of ‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

(Image credit: Mark Blower)

Yaya Mavundla Parktown Johannesburg

Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014, by Zanele Muholi, silver gelatin print. New York

(Image credit: © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson)

INFORMATION
‘Talisman in the Age of Difference’ is on view until 21 July. For more information, visit the Stephen Friedman Gallery website (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS

Stephen Friedman Gallery
25-28 Old Burlington Street
Mayfair
London W1S 3AN

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Emma O'Kelly is a contributing editor at Wallpaper*. She joined the magazine on issue 4 as news editor and since since then has worked in full and part time roles across many editorial departments. She is a freelance journalist based in London and works for a range of titles from Condé Nast Traveller to The Telegraph. She is currently working on a book about Scandinavian sauna culture and is renovating a mid century house in the Italian Lakes.