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  • Provenance

    Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

  • Literature

    Yinka Shonibare, “Yinka Shonibare Talks about Un Ballo in Maschera, 2004,” Artforum International, January, 2005, pp. 172-173 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “For me Un Ballo in Maschera is about questioning certainties around the issue of power. I tried to look at the desire for power, an innate human desire, and the ultimate demise of that power in life. The world has had various empires—Roman, Ottoman, British—and today, questions around imperial hegemony are coming up again in relation to the United States. The parallel to Gustav III is the Swedish king’s expansionist war against Russia and his ambitions to save the French aristocracy from the revolution. While he was living in the style of the French court, his country was extremely poor. A patron of the arts, he was himself an actor and established the Royal Academy for the Arts. The amount of money he spent on them eventually became controversial. The ballroom in which Un Ballo in Maschera takes place is just one sign of his family’s enormous wealth. When you have this kind of visible excess, there’s usually a less-fortunate stratum below, supporting it. So while on the one hand the film deals with Swedish history as a metaphor for imperialist expansion, on the other I criticize myself in the process, because I, too, desire power and pleasure.  
    This is my own way of dealing with ideology. The use of excess, seduction, and pleasure in my work always remains political but without preaching politics, which is a different thing. I’m never moralistic. Instead it’s a question of working through political issues as well as being seduced by the actual form, a question of provoking and seducing. There are current events, such as 9/11 and what is happening in Iraq, that represent global struggles for power. However, I didn’t want to use direct references in the film: no Bush, no Iraq, no Afghanistan. In all their specificity these issues are too big to deal with in a literal way, which is why I have turned to historical metaphor. I don’t know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And I won’t know this in my lifetime. I don’t know if seeking the good guys and the bad guys is even an issue. What I am sure of, though, is that the human tendency to self-destruct won’t go away; it’s an ongoing historical tragedy, born of a territorial instinct. But I hope I retain a sense of optimism, in the beauty of the film. We are capable of destruction but also of incredible beauty. This we must not underestimate.  
    My hope is that people will be broad-minded about the film, not reductive. Struggles for power are no different from what they were a thousand years ago. In Un Ballo in Maschera I show the desire for power and, at the same time, the desire to destroy that desire.” 
    Excerpt from Y. Shonibare, “Yinka Shonibare Talks About Un Ballo in Maschera, 2004”, in ArtForum, Vol. XLIII, No. 5, January 2005, p. 173).  

NIGERIA/UNITED KINGDOM

61

Un Ballo in Maschera (I-X)

2004-2005
Giclee prints on Hannemuhle rag paper in ten parts.
20 x 30 in. (50.8 x 76.2 cm) each.
This work is from an edition of 10 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Estimate
$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $80,500

AFRICA Theme Sale

15 May 2010
New York