Any row of books has potential.
A row of books that are beautiful, but fakes, should be disappointing.
Tate Modern bought ‘British Library’ by Yinka Shonibare CBE in 2019.
The installation of 6,328 books is as much a space for contemplation as the Seagram Murals by Rothko in the same building .
My response to Rothko is to be peaceful and calm. Shonibares work makes my head fizz. It’s not just the vivid, vibrant colours but the stark utilitarian librariness of it.
3 walls of a gallery are filled with bookshelves. All the books are brightly coloured, covered with Dutch Fabric, a mass produced batik style material from the Netherlands. On the spines in gold leaf are the names of first or second generation migrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the culture or history of Britain. Some books have the names of people who have opposed migration, this negative group is balanced by the huge number of books that have no names on their spines representing the future when currently unknown migrants will boost and embellish British life in unimaginable ways.
Central to this exhibition is a website where migrants or their descendents can add their stories. These additions can be read on the website.
I took my small granddaughter, also a migrant, to this exhibition before she was one. Already a lover of colourful books I plan to take her regularly until she can add her story.
The Guardian ran an article about Yinka Shonibare last week.