Moral values and sexuality have provided Shonibare with rich subject matter, culminating in his vast installation Gallantry and Criminal Conversation. This work is inspired by the phenomenon of the Grand Tour, an extended trip focusing on the art, culture and history of Europe (particularly France and Italy) that was considered central to the education of young ladies and gentlemen in the 17th and early 18th century.
Shonibare’s installation explores the slippages between public and private life, revealing hidden intimacies and exchanges. The Grand Tour is simultaneously revealed as a kind of covert sexual tourism (adultery was called “criminal conversation” at the time) or alternately a coming of age for wealthy young European socialites.
Shonibare’s installation also features a horse-drawn carriage—the typical mode of transport for these young aristocrats before the advent of mass railway travel in the 1840s. The trunks that would have accompanied them on their journey are featured as playful props in Shonibare’s decadent sexual scenario, as is a carefully poised parasol.
21. black female. college student.
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