Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2017


In the wake of art history’s “global turn”, the installation art of Yinka Shonibare MBE has obtained vast visibility in the established centers of contemporary cultural practice in Europe and beyond. Shonibare is best known for his installations of mannequins that reenact canonized paintings and historical events culled from European modernity. Dressed in deceptively “African” Dutch Wax fabrics, Shonibare’s phenotypically ambiguous and headless mannequins ensnare audiences with a semblance of “exotic” difference, but ultimately resist the fixity of national, cultural, racial and, in some cases, gendered categorization through an incessant semiotic slippage. In his book, The Culture Game (2001), Olu Oguibe singled out Shonibare for having successfully subverted the desires and machinations of a pluralist contemporary art world, which grants black artists visibility on the condition that they perform their cultural/racial difference in relation to an unmarked, white center.

My dissertation scrutinizes interpretations that ascribe an a priori subversive effect to Shonibare’s work. I provide four transnational case studies that examine how his installations challenged hegemonic notions of nationhood, Empire, and difference on London’s Trafalgar Square in England; at the Berlin National Gallery in Germany; at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France; and in a public park in Lagos, Nigeria. My historically and geographically situated, transnational case studies of Shonibare’s institutional framing and reception seek to refine Okwui Enwezor’s conception of contemporary art as a “deterritorialized” field, by demonstrating how Shonibare’s “unbound” work is variably “reterritorialized” in the locations where he becomes “visible.”



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Kirsten Pai Buick

Second Committee Member

Dr. Ray Hernández-Durán

Third Committee Member

Dr. Nii Quarcoopome

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Charlotte Klonk


Shonibare; Empire; nationhood; institutional critiques; installation