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Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2021: Online charity auction hosted by Phillips auction house includes works by Yinka Shonibare and Ernesto Neto

Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2021: Online charity auction hosted by Phillips auction house includes works by Yinka Shonibare and Ernesto Neto

Whitechapel Gallery is delighted to announce the donation of 11 exceptional artworks to the Gallery by artists Jadé Fadojutimi (b. 1993, UK), Ilse D’Hollander (1968-1997), Donna Huanca (b. 1980, USA), Rachel Jones (b. 1991, UK), Wonder Buhle Mbambo (b. 1989, South Africa), Cassi Namoda (b. 1988, Mozambique), Ernesto Neto (b. 1964, Brazil), Yinka Shonibare CBE (b. 1962, UK), Antonia Showering (b. 1991, UK), Khari Turner (b. 1991, USA) and Flora Yukhnovich (b. 1990, UK).  ( Image credit: Yinka Shonibare CBE, Creatures of the Mappa Mundi – Alerion and Satyrs, 2018, Patchwork, applique, embroidery and Dutch wax printed cotton textile, 131 x 190 cm (51 5/8 x 74 ¾ in), unframed, 147 x 204.5 cm, framed. Donation courtesy of Yinka Shonibare CBE and Stephen Friedman Gallery. Commissioned by Meadow Arts, 2018.)

All donated artworks will be auctioned in support of Whitechapel Gallery’s education and community programmes as part of the Gallery’s prestigious Art Icon award, supported by the Swarovski Foundation. This year Yinka Shonibare CBE RA will be honoured during a virtual gala celebration on 22 March 2021, hosted by actress Rakie Ayola and Whitechapel Gallery Director, Iwona Blazwick OBE.  

The online charity auction will be hosted by Phillips auction house on, with bidding open to participants on 15 March 2021, running through 12pm GMT on 23 March 2021. Those interested may register for the auction ahead of time on   

The Art Icon gala and online charity auction form part of a major fundraising initiative, Towards Tomorrow, which coincides with Whitechapel Gallery’s 120th anniversary. This drive helps support the Gallery’s continued success and innovation, whilst maintaining the conviction that its work is fundamental to society – at a time when culture, creativity and inspiration are both in short supply for many and yet more essential than ever for our collective future.   

Since 2014, the Art Icon gala and auction has raised funds for Whitechapel Gallery’s education and community programmes, enabling the Gallery to engage with tens of thousands of children and young people through a diverse array of art and ideas. In the last ten years Whitechapel Gallery has worked with more than 51,500 school students, 35,000 college and university students, welcomed 8,400 participants to family days and engaged 3,500 local participants in community workshops.  More than 10,000 15 – 21-year-olds have visited Boot Camps, masterclasses, creative career sessions and collaborations, and more than 300 have taken part in the Duchamp & Sons Youth Forum. Throughout 2020 these programmes have been adapted for digital platforms, enabling young people to envision, discuss and co-curate exhibitions including Home: Live > In Room, featuring artworks selected from the Hiscox Collection.  

The works to be auctioned to support education as a core element of the Gallery’s mission are:  Our Eternal Internal Tsunami Effect (2021) by Jadé Fadojutimi’s, which flows like a body of water across its canvas, expanding the definition of painting by brushing, pushing, smearing and scraping colours into one another. At 27 years old, Fadojutimi is currently the youngest artist in the Tate collection. 
Untitled (1997) by Ilse D’Hollander exemplifies the artist’s masterful command of colour and composition. Painted just before her untimely death, this gouache draws upon D’Hollander’s impression of the everyday life and domestic scenes in the Flemish countryside, where she spent the last, highly productive years of her life. Obsidian Ladder (2019) by Donna Huanca provides a photographic representation of the body and its materials – skin, flesh and hair – each interwoven with sand, oil stick and the language of abstraction. 

 In A Sliced Tooth (2021), Rachel Jones uses the abstracted forms of mouths and teeth to indicate a symbolic and literal entry point to the interior of the self. As a significant new voice in abstraction, her work explores the interiority of the black body through textured compositions that blend figuration and abstraction in surprising ways.  Wonder Buhle Mbambo’s painting, This is For Where I am From (2021), combines realism with the surreal nature of dreams and abstract thought. With nothing separating the colour of the figure’s skin and the background, this painting recalls Kerry James Marshall’s famous Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980), a small work depicting a nearly invisible black man, dressed in black over a black background.  In Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Toro (2021), Cassi Namoda reinvents a photo of the former Ugandan Minister of Cultural Affairs, refashioning the princess by dressing her in Sapphire blue dress from Alexander McQueen’s latest spring/summer 2021 collection.   body and skin (2013) by Ernesto Neto, exemplifies the artist’s investigation between the human world and natural world. This monumental photograph shows a moss-covered tree and cliff face on Cagarra, an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Combined to form a single image, the two scenes invite a close examination of texture and the materiality of the landscapes. 

Creatures of the Mappa Mundi – Alerion and Satyrs (2018) by the 2021 Art Icon Yinka Shonibare CBE explores what the artist refers to as “two of the most pressing concerns of our time: environmental protection and immigration”. Inspired by the Mappa Mundi, the largest medieval map still in existence, this hand-sewn textile depicts a pair of birds with large, hooked bills along with the tall, humanoid figure of the Satyr. Antonia Showering’s luscious painting Who do you follow? (2021), appears at first glance to be an arcadian idyll. Set within a mountainous landscape, the canvas updates early 20th century depictions of bathers through a distinctly contemporary lens. Moonlit King (2021) is exemplary of Khari Turner’s paintings, which primarily focus on portraits of black figures with exaggerated features and accessories. Here the figure is viewed from below, identifiable only through his nose, lips and embellished hands. Flora Yukhnovich’s Above the Salt (2021) masterfully combines figuration and abstraction in a contemporary reimagining of Rococo paintings, specifically inspired by 18th century renderings of the Birth of Venus.   

The online charity auction hosted by Phillips will also feature experiential lots, including an exclusive luxury tour of the new Audemars Piguet Museum in Le Brassus Switzerland designed by Bjarke Ingels, a dinner with Iwona Blazwick and artist Michael Armitage (b. 1984, Kenya) and an artist studio visit bundle with Whitechapel Artist Alumni William Kentridge (b. 1955, South Africa), Tala Madani (b. 1981, Iran) and Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, USA).  The Whitechapel Gallery’s annual Art Icon event is organised with generous support from the Swarovski Foundation, which has a longstanding commitment to the Gallery and its programme. The Art Icon Committee includes Aki Abiola, Sir David Adjaye OBE, Dorota Audemars, Erin Bell, Terhas Berhe, David Cleaton-Roberts (Cristea Roberts Gallery), James and Jane Cohan, Robert Devereux, Karon Hepburn (Stephen Friedman Gallery), Luigi Maramotti, Bimpe Nkontchou, Oba Nsugbe, Irene Panagopoulos, Catherine Petitgas, Jo Stella-Sawicka (Goodman Gallery), Maria Sukkar, Nadja Swarovski, Andreas Teoh, Helen Waters (Cristea Roberts Gallery), and Cheyenne Westphal.

 Yinka Shonibare CBE, born in London, UK, is internationally renowned for his multi-layered work that explores issues of race, class and colonialism, often incorporating references from Western art history and literature. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004 and his sculpture, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, was the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission in Trafalgar Square and is now on permanent display at The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Recently, he has had solo exhibitions in Beijing, Singapore and London, and will have a major survey exhibition at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in May 2021. He is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; James Cohan Gallery, New York; and Goodman Gallery, South Africa. Over the past 10 years, Shonibare has supported a younger generation of artists through his pioneering ‘Guest Projects’, an initiative that gives free studio space to practitioners of any discipline for a month. He is the founder of the Yinka Shonibare Foundation, which aims to promote artistic and cultural exchange between Africa and the rest of the world through an ambitious programme of artist residencies in Nigeria from late 2021.  

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.”  

Cheyenne Westphal, Global Chairwoman, Phillips, said: “Phillips is very proud to support Whitechapel Gallery for the eighth annual Art Icon Gala and delighted to act as auction partner to host the online auction on, the proceeds from which will support Whitechapel Gallery’s pioneering education and community programmes. We are incredibly humbled to play a part in the prestigious Art Icon Award which this year will celebrate the lifetime achievements of Yinka Shonibare CBE. Phillips’ long-standing partnership with Whitechapel Gallery is part of our global Arts Partnerships programme, committed to supporting contemporary arts and culture.”

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