Grace Wales Bonner, Ebonics meet the wrestlers, Photograph by Harley Weir
This is the first Serpentine exhibition created by a fashion designer in a new series of annual short duration projects which bring collective and interdisciplinary practice into the gallery spaces. It expands the Serpentine’s commitment to presenting work across art, architecture, design, fashion and digital and follows the Gallery’s fashion-focused exhibition of Atelier E.B and Park Nights performance by TELFAR in 2018.
Born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father, Wales Bonner is a cultural polymath, who sees fashion as a means of communicating broad and interwoven notions of identity and self-expression. Recognised as one of the most innovative designers of her generation, Wales Bonner’s design process involves a rich cross-pollination of sources, often collaborating with artists, writers and performers.
Each of her collections is a meditation on cultural narratives, bringing together literary references with exceptional craftsmanship, and presented within carefully considered scenography. Writing, research and performance are integral elements of her practice, which she synthesises through sustained collaborations with other practitioners, bridging multiple disciplines and genres.
Grace Wales Bonner, SS19, Photograph by Harley Weir
For her exhibition, Wales Bonner will explore mysticism, ritual and magical resonances within black cultural and aesthetic practices. Over the course of one month, a multi-sensory installation and a series of happenings will invite contemplation and activate the spaces of the Serpentine.
Visitors to the exhibition will encounter an assemblage of shrines by Liz Johnson Artur, Kapwani Kiwanga, Eric N. Mack, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Grace Wales Bonner. The musician Laraaji will lead a series of meditation workshops during the exhibition’s opening days that will become a lasting shrine of sound within the space, whilst Rashid Johnson’s installations using carpets will create a sense of grounding throughout the Gallery. Interested in the improvisation, intentionality and repurposing of shrines from the Black Atlantic, Wales Bonner will draw upon their relational nature, as material portals into multiple worlds and frames of experience. Referencing the images and rhythms of rituals and ceremonies from all over the world, she collapses time and space by bringing them into dialogue to create her own unique constellation.
This exhibition focuses on Wales Bonner’s rigorous research across multiple geographies and temporalities, culminating in the presentation of her forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, Mumbo Jumbo. Conjuring and exploring various characters, their dress, and the worlds and spaces they inhabit, the collection considers the artist as shaman, a West African spiritual healer, and a gathering of Howard University intellectuals.
GRACE WALES BONNER 19 January – 16 February 2019 Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Grace Wales Bonner, SS19, Photograph by Harley-Weir
About The Artist
Grace Wales Bonner graduated from Central St. Martins in 2014, with her graduate collection Afrique receiving the L’Oreal Professional Talent Prize. The following year, Wales Bonner debuted Ebonics, the Autumn/Winter 2015 collection and was awarded Emerging Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards. In 2016, she received the LVMH Young Designer Prize, and shortly after in 2018, was awarded the British Land London Design Medal. The Serpentine exhibition continues the Serpentine’s engagement with Wales Bonner’s practice following her participation in the 2015 Transformation Marathon.