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Sculptures by Yinka Shonibare + Li Li Ren arrive at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s ambitious “Open Art” project takes a significant step forward with the arrival this week of sculptures by renowned artists Yinka Shonibare CBE RA and Li Li Ren, establishing London’s first gallery-based sculpture garden within the Gallery’s expansive three-acre grounds. Free for all to enjoy, they join the Gallery’s two existing works by Peter Randall Page and Rob and Nick Carter.  

Installation view of Material (SG) IV (2023) by Yinka Shonibare CBE RA and To find a way home (2023) by Li Li Ren. Photo by Graham Turner.

Material (SG) IV (2023) by Yinka Shonibare CBE was originally born out of the artist’s Fourth Plinth commission Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle for London’s Trafalgar Square in 2010. The sculpture takes inspiration from the ship’s sails, enhanced with Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax batik fabric. The large-scale colourful sculpture, standing at four metres high, will be the first work visitors see when they arrive at the main entrance.     

The Wind Sculpture series was inspired by a project I did in Trafalgar Square, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’. After working on that project, I realised that the wind was doing something quite interesting to the sails and that they could be sculpture in themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing the piece in this new context, within the Dulwich Picture Gallery gardens.

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

To find a way home (2023) by Li Li Ren is made up of five patinated bronze works, clad with gelatinous glass forms, evoking natural corals. The colours speak to the acidic colour palette of sea creatures, which for Ren represent the sublime in the natural realm. Ren scaled the pieces to encourage interaction, with movement through and around them cultivating intimate moments with each individual work.  

To find a way home is a reflection on how deeply interlinked all life is. The works are about connection, synchronisation and the possibility of belonging, manifesting in these coral-inspired shapes, which highlight the strangeness and beauty of nature’s biology. The work negotiates new territory at Dulwich Picture Gallery, enriched by their permanent collection which features so many references to the sublime qualities of nature.

Artist Li Li Ren

The arrival of these long-term loans signals the first phase of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s ongoing transformation. Over the next two years, the sculpture garden will expand with a carefully curated selection of thought-provoking installations by established and emerging contemporary artists. Each carefully chosen work will aim to spark curiosity and engage visitors through interaction and exploration. 

The Gallery’s visionary Open Art project extends beyond the sculpture garden. It encompasses a comprehensive transformation of the Gallery’s outdoor spaces, including the reimagining of a currently underutilised meadow and the creation of a dedicated family and schools building which includes a new lunchroom and play facilities. This interconnected masterplan aims to create a vibrant destination where art and nature seamlessly intertwine, offering captivating experiences for visitors of all ages. 

Other significant project developments include: 

Major funding boost   

Since launching in spring 2023, Dulwich Picture Gallery has raised over 80% of its £5 million target for Open Art. This includes £1 million from The Lovington Foundation, a £350,000 grant from Wolfson Foundation, £250,000 from Garfield Weston Foundation, $500,000 from the Manton Foundation, £200,000 from The Kusuma Trust, £150,000 from Christina Smith Foundation, £50,000 from both Cockayne –  Grants for the Arts and The Linbury Trust, and £58,000 from the Rick Mather David Scrase Foundation. Together this funding will enable the Gallery to realise key elements of the project including its new play facilities for schools and families, crucial sustainability innovations such as a new Ground Source heat pump, as well as the development of the sculpture garden.   

Consulting with local families   

With construction on the Gallery’s cottage extension and new permanent building for children and schools set to commence this year, plans are underway for a new creative offer for younger visitors. The Gallery has appointed children’s play consultants, HoLD Design to devise the content for the Children’s building and play offer. Over the next few months, they will work with local families and groups to inform the design of the building’s interior and activities. Sessions will be held in the Gallery gardens in Wiggle Wonderland, an Arts Council funded temporary touring events space by architectural designer Beau McCarthy and artist Lucy Grainge. 

These developments mark a major milestone in our transformative Open Art project. With the arrival of sculptures by two outstanding artists, vital funding and the foundation of an exciting new family offer, we are well on our way to achieving our vision to bring art to life and life to art.

Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery,  


Open Art is Dulwich Picture Gallery’s vision for a happy, healthier and greener future. A series of enhancements and new developments across Dulwich Picture Gallery’s site will fully integrate the gardens, transforming three acres of green space into a sculpture garden with a difference and securing this much loved and internationally renowned destination for future generations. The Gallery is working with leading architect practice Carmody Groarke and renowned landscape artist, Kim Wilkie to realise this next phase in the Gallery’s journey. “Open Art” is comprised of connected elements that will make the most of the entire extent of the site, enhancing previously underused areas and the experience for all visitors. 

Construction on the Gallery’s new pavilion for families and school groups is set to begin later this year, aiming for completion in early 2025. The Gallery will remain open throughout. dpg.art/openart

Describing himself as a ‘post-colonial hybrid’, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA creates work that explores issues of race and class through the media of sculpture, painting, photography, film, tapestries and public works. Shonibare was born in 1962 in London, England and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He lives and works in London. He was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004 and was elected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy, London in 2013. He was awarded the decoration of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or MBE in 2004 and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or CBE in 2019. Shonibare received the prestigious Art Icon Award from Whitechapel Gallery, London and an honorary degree from The Courtauld Institute, London in 2021.

Li Li Ren (b. 1986, Heilongjiang Province, China) lives and works in London, where she gained her BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, in 2010, and her MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2017. Solo exhibitions include: The World Forgetting, by the World Forgot, Sherbet Green, London (2024); Sunset as Burning Bruise, Magician Space, Beijing (2022) and Frantumaglia, Qimu Space, Beijing (2021). Group exhibitions include: Art-o-rama, Marseille (2024; forthcoming); Ruthin International Arts Festival 2024, North Wales (forthcoming performance); Art Basel Hong Kong (2024); The Flow of Art and Value, MOCA Yichuan (2024); Embodied Rituals, Times Museum, Guangdong (2024); Frieze Sculpture, London (2023); Home is where the haunt is, X Museum, Beijing (2023); Sculptural vibe cutting through (in) accessible sites, Gravity Art Museum, Beijing (2023); Into My Arms, Sherbet Green (2023); We Borrow Dreams from Others, Like Debt, MadeIn Art Museum, Shanghai (2022-2023); Memorias del subdesarrollo, Qimu Space, Beijing (2021); In/Out, Guardian Art Center, Beijing (2020); Silence in Violence, Spectrum Art Space, Shanghai (2018); and Camden Arts Centre, London (2017). She is represented by Sherbet Green in Europe and Magician Space in China.



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