Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This fashion designer is setting the scene at the Serpentine, where she will later show during London Fashion Week

Everything is personal to Grace Wales Bonner. This is evident in the clothes she designs, which touch on her dual nationalities — and the projects she collaborates on. 

The latest example of this is, A Time For New Dreams (a nod to Ben Okri's book of the same name), an exhibition curated by Wales Bonner for the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Running until 16th February, it links and honours her African and Caribbean ancestors with help from artists-turned-collaborators like American photographer, Paul Sepuya and painter, Eric N. Mack. 

'There are ideas, writers and artists that I’ve always admired, and this show has given me the opportunity to connect with those people,' she tells ELLE UK. 

Hans-Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the gallery, invited Wales Bonner in for a conversation around a year ago about the possibility of working together. 

'I have had a very good relationship with them since 2015, when Hans-Ulrich invited me to be part of a Transformation Marathon, so I’ve always felt engaged and interested in what they’ve been doing,' she says.

Wales Bonner’s intentions for the exhibition were clear from the beginning: 'a space for meditation and reflection; it’s to connect with ideas of history and ancestor’s lineage, but it’s also very global and open in its approach, so it’s more of a place to reflect on how engaged with ideas we are both physically and bodily but also mentally and spiritually.' 

The intimate curation touches on the three states of Wales Bonner: a radical dreamer, reflector and meditator. 


image

Kapwani Kiwanga’s ‘Flowers for Africa’

Courtesy of Grace Wales Bonner

The gallery is split into six parts, where visitors journey through the eras in which the artists Wales Bonner has chosen to feature worked early 1980s to present day. 

'I think we’re playing with time in different ways – with Kapwani Kiwanga’s ‘Flowers for Africa’ that you see at the front, those will wilt over time, so you see this kind of aging,' she says. 

For the first-time curator, she has installed a meditation room, where musician Laraaji will host meditation workshops, reiterating that this exhibition is just as much about intellectualism as it is about mind, body and spirit. 

Laraaji in the meditation room

Courtesy of Grace Wales Bonner

Identity is also at the heart of her debut show, as demonstrated by, for example, David Hammons 'Rock Head', a rock that has been given a magical quality through using, 'shavings from barbershop floors from America. There’s this idea of intellectualism, being in your head, reflecting on that and being a spiritual practice in itself but there’s also moments where it’s much more about being outside of your body and spirituality.'


image

Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s Maternal Milk (1986) and Dan Mask (1989)

Courtesy of Grace Wales Bonner

Nigerian-born photographer, Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s series, Bodies of Experience(1989), is another standout, intertwining his queer and Yoruba identity. 

'The thing I keep thinking about is this idea of brotherhood and interweaving all these different intellectuals and visual artists. I’m grouping people from different times together but at the same time there’s also ancestors and spirituality so that’s what I’ve been thinking about,' says Wales Bonner.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


image

Rashid Johnson’s Untitled (daybed 1), (2012)

Courtesy of Grace Wales Bonner

'My research is coming from a Black-Atlantic cultural perspective but I’m also looking at how that touches other spiritualities, other worlds, other identities. It should be very open as well, it’s not at all exclusive,' she says, adding that, 'it’s giving people an access point into my mind.'

Wales Bonner is also setting the scene for her menswear collection which will show during London Fashion Week (women’s) for the first time at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery; hinting that she will look into 'Howard University in the 1980s and thinking about college dressing. 

'The characters and the show are fully integrated with this environment, the show is a moment where you can see characters that inhabit this space that are completely created around this research,' she says, adding 'it’s very integrated within this space.'


image

Wales Bonner SS19

Harley Weir

Wales Bonner honours the people who have informed her, from her thinking process to those who have helped shaped her. 

'It’s a really important thing for me in my own life to be able to reflect on the kind of freedoms I have and the way that I have those freedoms and why,' she says, continuing, 

'I’ve always looked at history and I’ve always looked to the past to understand where I am today and I think for me it’s very important to have this show and be very intergenerational.'

Grace Wales Bonner: A Time for New Dreams is at London's Serpentine Galleries from 19 January to 16 February 2019.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Fashion
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below