Award
July 7, 2021

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA receives honorary degree

The Courtauld Institute, London, England

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA has been awarded the degree of Hon. D. Lit. honoris causa of the University of London by The Courtauld Institute. The artist was nominated by the institute’s student body for the prestigious honour, which recognises the artist's outstanding contributions to the visual arts. The honorary degree is given to individuals whose distinction and achievements are outstanding and of particular importance to the fields of art and art history, The Courtauld’s specialisms, and was fully endorsed by the full Courtauld community.

Other artists to have received the honour from The Courtauld have included Martha Rosler and Rasheed Araeen: recipients of Courtauld honorary degrees in recent years include pioneering art historian Professor Griselda Pollock and current Chair of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota CH.

Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and installation, Shonibare’s work has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. This work, examining race, class and the construction of cultural identity is a visual political commentary on the complex interrelationship between Africa and Europe, using citations from western art from the periods of high colonialism to question the validity of contemporary cultural and national identities. 

Nominated for the Turner prize in 2004, Shonibare’s work was included in the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. In 2010, Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ was the Fourth Plinth Commission and was displayed in Trafalgar Square before moving to be permanently displayed outside the National Maritime Museum in London.

Shonibare was elected a Royal Academician in 2013 and awarded a CBE in 2019. In March 2021, he was the 8th recipient of the prestigious Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award. A major retrospective of his work is currently on show at the Museum der Moderne in Austria and later this year, he will co-ordinate the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. His works are in notable museum collections internationally.

Julian Agnew has also been recognised, with the award of an Honorary Fellowship of The Courtauld, in recognition of his contributions to The Courtauld over many years as Treasurer, Chairman and Trustee of the Friends of The Courtauld, an organisation founded by his father Geoffrey Agnew in 1969 in support of The Courtauld and merged with it in 2020. Agnew’s mother Doreen was one of the first cohort of students in 1932 when the Courtauld Institute of Art was founded as part of the University of London. His own professional career has been spent within the art trade, as Director and Chairman of his family company, Thomas Agnew & Sons, founded in the early 19th Century and a notable Bond Street gallery from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries.

Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld, said: “We are delighted to be able to honour two people who have had such an impact on the visual arts and on The Courtauld’s own mission to advance how we see and understand them. On behalf of all of our staff and students, I would like to offer Yinka and Julian our warmest congratulations.”

Yinka Shonibare said: “It’s a great honour to be bestowed with this Honorary Degree from an institute of such high esteem as The Courtauld. It is especially touching to know that I was nominated by the students, who are graduating this year under extremely challenging global circumstances.”

Julian Agnew said: “I am delighted to accept this award, not only for myself and the small contribution I have been able to make to the work of The Courtauld, but also as a tribute to my parents for the long association that both of them had with the Institute."

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