Farnese Hercules

Yinka Shonibare CBE was born in London and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. Today, he is one of the most recognized and distinguished working British artists. Shonibare has participated in important contemporary events such as Documenta and Venice Biennale and has exhibited around the world. His prestigious commission for London’s Trafalgar Square is one of his many public art projects. The artist was a nominee for the prestigious Turner prize in 2004 and in 2013 was elected as Royal Academician. In 2019, he was honored with the title of Commander of the Office of the British Empire or CBE, which he has adopted as part of his name.

Shonibare describes himself as a post-colonial hybrid, a nod to his dual Nigerian and British identity. Historical sources from Greco-Roman antiquity to African design inspire his art. Sculptures Aphrodite de Fréjus and Farnese Hercules, welcoming visitors as they approach the ticketing area, are based on classical statues: Aphrodite, or Venus, is the goddess of love and beauty; Hercules, or Herakles, is the hero of the Twelve Labors. Both antique sculptures are on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Here, they are reimagined with Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax batik patterns painted on the surface. With their heads turned playfully turned into globes, the artist gives them a new contemporary meaning.

Yinka Shonibare CBE. Farnese Hercules, 2018. Mixed Media, 55 1/2 x 29 1/8 x 22 5/8 inches. Gift of Fred and Lena Meijer. ©Yinka Shonibare CBE.