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Continuing Outset’s partnership with the Government Art Collection (GAC), we have awarded the third commission of The Robson Orr TenTen Award to Yinka Shonibare CBE, who has created the wonderfully complex ‘Hibiscus and the Rose’, a woodcut print featuring Shonibare’s signature use of Dutch wax fabrics and talks of his childhood in both the UK and Nigeria.

The print has been commissioned as part of a ten-year initiative produced by Outset with the GAC, and sponsored by leading philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr. Every year a British artist is commissioned to create a unique, limited edition print to be shown in diplomatic buildings across the world. A small number are available for purchase through a collaboration with Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the inaugural award given to the artist Hurvin Anderson, and continued in 2019 with Tacita Dean’s commission.

Shonibare’s woodcut print and fabric collage Hibiscus and the Rose is a beautifully vivid encounter between two scarlet floral blooms. As a child in Nigeria Yinka Shonibare would pick the nectar from the hibiscus flower to eat, whilst the rose evokes his British identity. Conscious that the prints will hang in UK government buildings around the world, Shonibare has created an image that is both personal and universal.

Yinka Shonibare CBE, said:

Hibiscus and the Rose is an expression of cultural exchange between Britain and the rest of the world. The hibiscus is a genus of numerous species of herbs, shrubs, and trees in the mallow family (Malvaceae) widely found in many of the warmer temperate Commonwealth countries. The rose is the national flower of England and has a long tradition within English symbolism. An exploration of Britain’s colonial past and its current relationship with its former colonies is symbolised through the ‘Hibiscus and the Rose.’

The interplay of race, place, history, politics and class in the construction of cultural identity is at the core of Yinka Shonibare’s diverse practice. Coming to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his headless figures festooned in 17th-century clothing made from Dutch wax Indonesian batik fabrics synonymous with African design, were shown globally leading to a Turner Prize nomination in 2004, and a prominent installation in Documenta XI in 2008. Two years later saw his first public art commission, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, a maquette of which is in the Government Art Collection, with his now hallmark use of Dutch wax fabrics acting as sails. The cultural entanglement of this textile through industry and design is at the crux of Shonibare’s work that critiques a mono-cultural narrative, and exposes complex global relationships, particularly between Africa and Europe. 

Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr said:

‘For the third iteration of the Robson Orr TenTen Award, we are delighted to support the production of Hibiscus and the Rose, a new commissioned woodcut print and fabric collage edition by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE. A beautifully vivid encounter between two scarlet floral blooms, Hibiscus and the Rose visualizes a cultural dialogue and relationship. We are delighted that TenTen contributes towards the continuing development of the GAC, a major national collection that plays a vital role promoting British art, history and culture.

The Government Art Collection

The Government Art Collection (GAC), established in 1898, is a national collection of historic, modern and contemporary British art that is displayed in government buildings in the UK and around the world. These locations include 10 & 11 Downing Street, government departments and residences and offices of British Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consulates-General across 155 capital cities worldwide. The Collection, seen by thousands of visitors annually, promotes British art and contributes to cultural diplomacy. We work to widen engagement with audiences beyond government through partnerships and participation in local, national and international events.