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Yinka Shonibare's 'Magic Ladders' At The Barnes

By Tom Rickert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Barnes Foundation brings British artist Yinka Shonibare and his exhibit, "Magic Ladders," to Philadelphia for a three month showing, starting with a kickoff party and meet-and-greet with the artist on January 24th.

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Judith Dolkart

"I think it's a pretty magical exhibition," said Judith Dolkart, Deputy Director of Art and Archival Collections at The Barnes Foundation. "This show, in many ways, touches on the core mission of the Barnes."

Shonibare has created a brand new piece for the show that has a personal connection to the foundation - the magic ladders that give the exhibit its name.

"For this work, Shonibare was very much interested in themes of enlightenment and education, opportunity and social mobility, all issues which were of interest to Dr. Barnes. He created a work that really relates to Barnes himself. The rungs of these ladders are constructed of books, and the titles of the books are all derived from Barnes' own library. So most of them have titles related to art history, and each ladder has a child climbing up, furthering the idea that education brings opportunity, an ability to rise. That's something that Barnes very much believed in. This show, in many ways, through its exploration of identity and social mobility, enlightenment, touches on the core mission of the Barnes," she said.

Shonibare's work is presented through many different types of media, including sculpture, painting, installation, photography and film.

Scramble for Africa by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Credit - Photograph 2012 The Barnes Foundation.
Scramble for Africa by Yinka Shonibare MBE. (Credit - Photograph 2012 The Barnes Foundation.)

One specific piece, "Scramble for Africa," will be staged in its own room, with different sized sculptures placed along the exhibition so that visitors can walk about them.

"Some are very tall, some are quite low to the ground, so there's something to look at in every direction," said Dolkart. "I am really intrigued to see people exploring the exhibition and reading the texts, having a point of connection with the figures. The human figure is incredibly empathetic. People respond to figural work, so I'm really interested to see how people relate to the show."

The exhibit runs from January 24th to April 21st. For tickets and information, visit:

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