yinka shonibare, MBE at gsk contemporary - aware: art, fashion, identity

2 December 2010
The third season of contemporary art at 6 Burlington Gardens examines how artists and designers use clothing as a mechanism to communicate and reveal elements of our identity.

The exhibition contains work by 30 emerging as well as established international contemporary practitioners including Marina Abramović, Acconci Studio, Azra Akšamija, Maja Bajevic, Handan Börüteçene, Hussein Chalayan, Alicia Framis, Meschac Gaba, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Andreas Gursky, Mella Jaarsma, Kimsooja, Claudia Losi, Susie MacMurray, Marcello Maloberti, La Maison Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Yoko Ono, Maria Papadimitriou, Grayson Perry, Dai Rees, Katerina šedá, Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare, Helen Storey, Rosemarie Trockel, Sharif Waked, Gillian Wearing RA, Yohji Yamamoto and Andrea Zittel.

New work by Yinka Shonibare and Hussein Chalayan, commissioned especially for Aware by London College of Fashion and the Royal Academy of Arts, is on display. Hussein Chalayan presents a new dress inspired by the 300 year old Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet theatre while Yinka Shonibare has worked with bespoke tailor Chris Stevens to create 18 designs based on 19th-century children's dress assembled to form a wall mural.

Aware is divided into four sections. Storytelling acknowledges the role of clothing in the representation of personal and cultural history. Grayson Perry's Artist's Robe, 2004, an elaborate, appliquéd coat made of a patchwork of luxurious fabrics, comments on the figure and status of the artist in the world today.

Building covers the concept of clothing being used as a form of protection and the notion of carrying one's own shelter, referencing the nomadic, portable nature of modern life. On display is Shelter Me 1, 2005 by Mella Jaarsma who in her work parallels garment and architectural constructions. Jaarsma defines shelter as the minimal construction needed for protection, not yet the shape of a house, but directly related to the proportions of the human body.

Belonging and Confronting examines ideas of nationality as well as displacement and political and social confrontation, recognizing the tensions associated with the assimilation of new cultures and traditions. In Palestinian artist Sharif Waked's video installation, Chic Point, 2003, the contradictory interpretations of revealing flesh as a fashion prerogative or as a humiliation juxtapose two worlds, one of high fashion and the other of semi-imprisonment.

The importance of Performance in the presentation of fashion and clothing, and in highlighting the roles that we play in our daily life, is explored in the final section. It features film footage of Yoko Ono's performance of Cut Piece at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York in 1965, for which the artist invited the public to cut strips from her clothing. While the scraps of fabric fall to the floor, the unveiling of the female body suggests the total destruction of the barriers imposed by convention.

For more information and to book tickets, please see the Royal Academy website.