A colorful model ship in a large bottle

Artforum | June 30, 2018

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts has acquired a large-scale installation by the Britain-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Titled the American Library Collection (Activists), the work comprises 234 books wrapped in Dutch wax print fabric.

Inscribed in gold foil on the spines of each book are the names of first or second generation American activists and writers from across the political spectrum, such as Grace Lee Boggs, Cesar Chavez, and Sonia Sotomayor.

“Yinka Shonibare’s library highlights the vital, complex, and important contributions of American immigrants, and the descendants of immigrants, who brought forward ideas that represent a spectrum of social and political thought,” said David E. Little, director and chief curator of the museum. “Touching on current debates on immigration, the artist invites viewers to consider the varied people and cultural sources that inform our sense of history and culture, and shape our perceptions of our own place within it.”

The work will also serve as a starting point for a number of programs that will be hosted by the museum, including a debate among Amherst College faculty on the subject of the global migration of people, commodities and ideas. The debate will take place as part of the public opening for the Shonibare installation on October 30.

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