The Garden of Love

Yinka Shonibare MBE


This original artwork presented by Yinka Shonibare, a British artist of Nigerian origin, 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 life-size models of lovers inspired by the paintings that Fragonard executed for Madame du Barry, in a pleasant, playful and dreamlike ambiance. A disturbing element is introduced by the characters' 18th century aristocratic costumes of the age, which have been made out of very bright African textiles. These figures have be decapitated (in 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 at that time, 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 the installation.


96 pages • 20 x 26 cm • 5 €
Co-published by musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac / 5 Continents 2007
ISBN: 9782915133356