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Biting the hand - and stuffing the face full of cake: Yinka Shonibare sculpture features in RA exhibition: Artist believes anti-banker work may draw criticism

May 30, 2014

Mark Brown, Arts correspondent

Yinka Shonibare is angry at capitalism - but he is "an angry hypocrite", he said yesterday as his new work poking fun at bankers was installed at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The sculpture features in the RA's summer exhibition to mark his election as an academician, one of a record number of new members elected in the past year. Called Cake Man (II), it features a lifesize mannequin dressed in African print, with a huge pile of cakes balanced on his head.

"It's my tribute to bankers," said Shonibare. "There's been a lot of talk about bonuses to bankers and the top 1% literally taking all the cake. So this piece, I guess, is about greed. It has more cakes than anyone could ever eat or manage."

Shonibare said he shared the ongoing public resentment but was well aware people might call him a hypocrite.

"The entire art world is underpinned by capitalism, so I guess I'm biting the hand that feeds me. That's not to say I can't pass comment but I know I can be accused of being complicit with the system," he said.

Shonibare said it was an honour to become an academician, particularly because he was chosen by his peers.

To celebrate the record number of new academicians, a dedicated room has been given to works by the new recruits. They include Thomas Heatherwick, Neil Jeffries, Chantal Joffe, Tim Shaw, Conrad Shawcross and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Another is Bob and Roberta Smith, also known as Patrick Brill. As it was "members' varnishing day", when works can by tradition be retouched if necessary, Brill was present with two tins of black paint - correcting spelling mistakes on his work, an enormous painting which is a literal transcription of a moving interview by Eddie Mair on Radio 4's PM with British surgeon David Nott about his experiences in Syria.

The summer show, the biggest event of its kind in the world, is as traditional a summer fixture as Wimbledon or the Derby, although a touch older. Now in its 246th year - remarkably, it has been held every year without interruption since 1769 - it is held to adhere to one of the RA's founding principles: to "mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit" to finance the training of young artists.

This year there will be more than 1,200 artworks, chosen from 12,000 entries. The hanging committee was led by Hughie O'Donoghue and most of the works in the main galleries of Burlington House in Piccadilly will be on sale.

There will also be works by higher profile names, with the sculptor Cornelia Parker curating a room, inviting contributions from Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Richard Deacon, Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Mona Hatoum, Christian Marclay, Laure Prouvost and David Shrigley.

The show will also feature an architecture room, a print room and works in memory of academicians who have died over the last year including Sir Anthony Caro, Alan Davie, Ralph Brown and John Bellany. The RA Summer Exhibition is open to the public from 9 June to 17 August


Yinka Shonibare with Cake Man (II), a new work for the Royal Academy's 2014 summer exhibition

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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