Yinka Shonibare, MBE (British, born
Three Graces, 2000, printed cotton textile,
three fiberglass mannequins, three aluminum bases.
Purchased with funds from the Alice Speed Stoll Accessions
Trust 2002.6 a-c
Yinka Shonibare is known for using the colorful 'African'
print fabrics known as Dutch Wax in his work, which
explores issues of race and class through a variety
of media. "But actually,” as Shonibare says,
“the fabrics are not really authentically African
the way people think. They prove to have a crossbred
cultural background quite of their own. And it’s
the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s
the way I view culture—it’s an artificial
construct." Three Graces is based on a
photograph of three women that the artist found in the
archives of the Hendrik Christian Anderson Museum in
Rome. The headless sculptures are clothed in Edwardian
dress, but Dutch Wax has been substituted for the original
fabric. The title Three Graces alludes to the
Classical Greek goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity.
By dressing representations of these ideals in a fabric
whose origins are a cultural hybrid, Shonibare questions
our notions of the nature and source of these graces.