To fight against “the resurgence of extreme right-wing politics and xenophobia across the globe”, the UK artist Yinka Shonibare is organising a show in London of more than 40 artists from Africa and the diaspora. Talisman in the Age of Difference at Stephen Friedman Gallery (5 June-21 July) honours Africa’s contribution to abstraction, beauty and politics. “This is a time of affirmative difference; we cannot shy away from the historical context of our identities,” Shonibare says. “#Me Too and Black Lives Matter are celebrations of difference, survival and necessary acknowledgements of the diversity of society.”
The show will feature artists from across the generations, including those who rose to fame during the civil-rights movement, such as Faith Ringgold and David Hammons. It will also include works by younger artists, including Larry Achiampong and Ghada Amer, and Jake and Dinos Chapman, who, although they are white, acknowledge in their work “the debt Western Modernism owes to African creativity”, Shonibare says.
He welcomes the recent increase in popularity of artists from Africa and the diaspora, but sounds a note of caution. “We must not reduce this creativity to the simplicity of fashion, but must understand its spiritual dimensions in the world beyond the galleries,” he says. Shows that celebrate diversity are a necessity, he adds. “Universality is the alibi par excellence for exclusion; power lies in the acknowledgement of one’s historical origins.”
Stephen Friedman is working with more than 30 galleries and private lenders for the part-selling show (the gallery declined to give prices). Confirmed works include two mixed-media assemblages by Betye Saar, new C-type photo montages from Achiampong’s Glyth series, Marlene Dumas’s Alfa (2004) and drawings by the African-American artist Bill Traylor.