May 13, 2014

Yinka Shonibare’s beautiful batik library


Yinka Shonibare

A new installation by the British artist Yinka Shonibare celebrates the cultural contributions of immigrants through a medium we can never get enough of: brightly-colored books.

Installed in the library of the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery near England’s southern coast, Shonibare’s show, titled “The British Library”, comprises 10,000 hardcover books which have been covered in colorful African Dutch batik fabric. Imprinted in gold foil on each book’s spine is the name of an important British cultural figure who is an immigrant, or a descendant of immigrants: Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zaha Hadid, Maya Arulpragasam, and many more.

In a blog post, one of Shonibare’s assistants, Louise Best, shares some behind-the-scenes photos as well as her impression of the binding process: “Tea, biscuits, old books, and life stories. A glorious way to spend an afternoon or 1000 years as far as I am concerned.”

Now, to get my hands on some batik fabric and set to work on my own bookshelves.

“The British Library” is installed to coincide with the Brighton Festival and HOUSE 2014 and will be on view until May 25.


Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.