yinka shonibare, MBE and kendell geers in 'the progress of love', a three-part transatlantic exhibition at the menil collection, the pulitzer foundation and cca, lagos

16 November 2012
In an unprecedented collaboration, arts institutions in three cities and on two continents will join together to explore the changing modes and meanings of love in today's global society, as seen by more than two dozen contemporary artists from Africa and a select few of their counterparts from Europe and America.

From October 2012 to April 2013, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos in Nigeria, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Menil Collection in Houston will each offer distinct but related presentations of The Progress of Love, with a comprehensive schedule of related events and a major publication documenting the exhibition as a whole.

The three concurrent presentations that make up The Progress of Love constitute a narrative arc, embracing love as an ideal, love as a lived experience, and love as something lost.

The Progress of Love at the Menil Collection reveals how artists in Africa today are questioning, reflecting, and challenging received images and norms of love - sexual, familial, friendly, communal - as derived both from traditional culture and Western influences. The way these aspirations and expectations about love play out in the real world - between and among partners, friends, and families - is the theme of The Progress of Love at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, which will present a series of performative exhibitions, performances, and film screenings. The end of love is the theme of The Progress of Love at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

According to Kristina Van Dyke, former curator for collections and research at the Menil Collection and now the director of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, one of the points of origin of the three-part exhibition - and the inspiration for its title - is a body of sculptural installations by Stephen Friedman Gallery artist Yinka Shonibare (born 1962) based on paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. In these works, the artist dressed headless mannequins in "African" garb in place of Fragonard's courtly 18th-century European figures to suggest the ways in which Africa was implicitly present in a burgeoning leisure class's concepts of love.

"This exhibition is very much inspired by Shonibare's exploration of how historical and contemporary forces affect people's concept of love," Van Dyke states. "It is particularly concerned with the question of how technological 'progress' is reshaping our understanding of love, in Africa as well as in Europe and America."

"The exhibition also opens up dialogue and interaction," says Bisi Silva, independent curator and director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, "through presentations that challenge the audience to expand their possibilities, rethink their preconceptions and prejudices, and engage with the multiple ways in which love affects their lives."

The Progress of Love is co-organized by Kristina Van Dyke and Bisi Silva. The Pulitzer presentation of the exhibition was assisted by Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

The exhibitions are on view at the Menil Collection in Houston from 2 December 2012 to 17 March 2013; The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts from 16 November 2012 to 20 April 2013; and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos from 13 October 2012 to 27 January 2013.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St Louis

Yinka Shonibare, MBE at The Menil Collection, Texas

Yinka Shonibare. MBE at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos