Garden of Love, Yinka Shonibare MBE
This original artwork that Yinka Shonibare, a British artist of Nigerian origin, has presented is in keeping with the thinking that informs his entire output: a contemporary reflection on identity and history in which the two cultures he relates to are closely intertwined.
The Garden of Love takes its inspiration from French-style gardens and it invites the public to begin a surprising journey, in which they will meet man-size models, pairs of lovers derived from the paintings that Fragonard made for Madame du Barry, in an agreeable, playful and dreamlike ambiance. A disturbing element is introduced by the way these characters are dressed in the aristocratic costumes of the age, which have been made out of very bright African cloth. These figures have be decapitated (as a reference to the French Revolution), which introduces a note of social criticism. From the conceptual view point, this installation establishes a connection between, on the one hand, the French aristocracy's spirit of opulence and liberty in those days, and, on the other hand, the slave trade which financed this grandeur. This installation shows how leisure, wealth, pleasure and excess are intrinsically linked to exploitation and labour. The texts by Erik de Jong and Françoise Vergès provide a historical counterpoint to this installation.