NY Historic Home Commissions Contemporary Art by Yinka Shonibare

The Turner Prize finalist is bringing back the ghost of Aaron Burr's widow

Girl on Scooter, 2009. Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather and fiberglass; Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection. © Yinka Shonibare. (Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/ Shanghai).

One of New York’s historic homes has taken the unusual step of commissioning a series of Contemporary art works for an upcoming exhibition to celebrate its 250th anniversary. In May, the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights will open “Colonial Arrangements,” by London-born, Lagos, Nigeria-raised textile artist Yinka Shonibare.

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As part of the exhibition, Shonibare will create an apparition of the storied home’s most famous resident: Eliza Jumel (1775-1865). The widow of Aaron Burr, and at one point one of the richest woman in New York, Jumel was a colorful and polarizing figure with ties to Napoleon’s France. She lived mostly in lower Manhattan but the 160th Street residence, on a breezy hill with views of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, was her summer home. George Washington also slept there, since the then-General headquartered the colonial army in the mansion in the fall of 1776.

The apparition, created using theatrical techniques of her time, will be installed in Morris-Jumel’s 18th and 19th century rooms along with sculptures of children in costume from a 2009 series by Shonibare. It’s a bit of a “get” for the institution as Shonibare, who often adds MBE to his name to denote Member of the British Empire, was a finalist for that nation’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2004.

He is represented in New York by James Cohan Gallery.

Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Morris-Jumel Mansion.

According to the Morris-Jumel, “Shonibare’s art explores identity, race, gender and the cross-pollination of cultures through the use of life-sized mannequins adorned in period costumes” crafted of Dutch wax fabric (a colorful, Indonesian textile introduced to Africa by British and Dutch merchants and colonizers).

The exhibition runs May 1 through August 31, 2015.

NY Historic Home Commissions Contemporary Art by Yinka Shonibare