Virtual Gala: Monday 22 March 2021

Art Icon 2021: Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

Whitechapel Gallery, London, England

We are delighted to announce that Yinka Shonibare CBE RA (b. 1962, UK) is the eighth artist to receive the prestigious annual Art Icon award, generously supported by the Swarovski Foundation. The award will be presented on Monday 22 March 2021 during a virtual gala celebration hosted by Iwona Blazwick OBE (Director, Whitechapel Gallery) and featuring an exclusive performance from Angélique Kidjo. To protect the safety and welfare of all attendees, the event will be hosted on a digital platform and will celebrate the Gallery’s continued commitment to youth programmes and educational activities through an evening of live presentations.

An online silent auction of artworks donated by leading contemporary artists will also take place, facilitated by Phillips Auction House. All funds raised will help support Whitechapel Gallery’s programme, in particular its work with thousands of children and young people each year.

Iwona Blazwick said: “Yinka Shonibare is a truly exceptional artist and is an exemplary Art Icon. His vividly clothed figurative sculptures, the Hogarthian scenarios he creates as installations and photographs, and his beautiful films celebrate African culture while exposing the legacies of race and empire. Globally celebrated Shonibare also supports younger generations of artists in Britain and Africa; both his artistic legacy and his charitable initiatives will resonate for years to come.”

Nadja Swarovski commented: “The Swarovski Foundation is delighted to continue its support of the Whitechapel Gallery and the Art Icon award, which this year honours an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to our cultural life. Yinka Shonibare’s work is strikingly beautiful and exerts a profound emotional power whilst exploring issues such as race, power and identity. Through his charitable programmes, Shonibare’s support of the next generation of artists and to cultural exchange have been equally impactful.”

The event committee includes Aki Abiola, Sir David Adjaye OBE, Erin Bell, Terhas Berhe, David Cleaton-Roberts (Cristea Roberts Gallery), Robert Devereux, Karon Hepburn (Stephen Friedman Gallery), Bimpe Nkontchou, Oba Nsugbe, Catherine Petitgas, Maria Sukkar, Nadja Swarovski, Andreas Teoh, Cheyenne Westphal, Irene Panagopoulos and Helen Waters (Cristea Roberts Gallery).

The Swarovski Foundation has supported the Whitechapel Gallery Youth Programme since 2015 as part of its commitment to championing creativity, enabling art education and celebrating the power of art to transform lives. The Youth Programme has empowered over 4,000 young people by giving them opportunities to explore contemporary art, meet creative professionals and gain new skills and practical experience to open up career paths into the creative sector.

On the receipt of the 2021 Art Icon Award, Shonibare CBE joined Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick, Wednesday 24 March, 7pm (GMT) for an online conversation to speak about his work and exceptional career to date.


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