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A breath of fresh art


Zanele Muholi & Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Posters - Tate Gallery
Zanele Muholi & Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Posters - Tate Gallery

This weekend – for the first time in months – galleries and museums are open and it feels amazing! The two exhibitions top of my list are Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Zanele Muholi at Tate Britain and Modern respectively – and it’s a bit of a scramble, because they both close in less than a week! It’s hard to recommend art – because, ultimately, it’s very personal, but you should definitely try to catch at least one of these ground breaking contemporary Black artists.

When you enter - before reaching Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Fly In League With The Night – you get hit by Heather Phillipson’s Rupture NO 1: blowtorching the bitten peach. I wasn’t quite prepared for (but loved) the gigantic installation engulfing the gallery with colour, darkness, sound and motion. For me, the ‘opening tableau’ evoked a kind of enormous feminine papier mâché ‘Noah’ towering over an ark of digitalised animal eyes – bathed in bright bloody red. The futuristic and apocalyptic atmosphere leaves you wandering through the large hall … aghast. Phillipson is also the artist behind the giant whipped creamy mess adorning the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.


Back to Yiadom-Boakye. Alert, your senses tantalised by the end of the world as you know it scenes, Fly In League With The Night emanates serenity and humanity. As you meander from room to room – of an exhibition that she has helped curate and that evolves according to the dynamics and conversations between paintings, as opposed to strict chronology – Yiadon-Boakhey’s characters come to life – enigmatically. Every single one of them is fictitious. That kind of blew my mind a bit – because they are so very portrait like. I was fascinated to read in a gal-dem interview with her, where she explains:


“As soon as I related them to people who existed, then it felt like the person I was painting had to be honoured, whereas working the way I do, there can be flushes of fantasy.”

When you look more closely, it is very difficult to place them – both timeless and anonymous … it’s all about the art of painting, of experimenting with brush strokes, rather than the actual subject.


The other thing that struck me were the titles of each painting – ‘Black Allegiance to the Cunning’, or ‘Geranium Love Sonnet’ or '11pm Tuesday (above in that order) … not necessarily related to the image or (self-)explanatory but sounding very literary. And of course they do – because as well as a painter, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a writer of prose and a poet – both art forms separate yet intertwined.


‘I write about the things I can’t paint and paint the things I can’t write about’


Next week, I am going to see Zanele Muholi, one of the most acclaimed photographers working today. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date. Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. Their work focuses on the intersection between race, gender and sexuality with a body of work documents and celebrates the lives of South Africa's Black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex communities … to top it off I’ m going with a friend I haven’t seen in real life for over a year … and I cannot wait!



Practical info

Tate Britain

Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

Opening Times

Monday to Sunday 10.00–18.00.

⚠ Timed tickets are required by all visitors.

Getting there

By tube you can get there either from Pimlico (Victoria line) or Wesminster (Jubilee, District and Circle lines)

Bus routes 87, 88, C10, 2, 36, 185, 436 (check stops)

The Tate Boat runs every 30 minutes between Tate Britain (Millbank Pier) and Tate Modern (Bankside Pier)

For more details and accessibility


Tate Modern Gallery

Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Opening Times

Monday to Sunday 10.00–18.00.

⚠ Timed tickets are required by all visitors.

Getting there

By tube either from Southwark station (Jubilee line), Blackfriars (District and Circle line) or St Paul’s (Central line)

Bus routes 45, 63, 100, 344, 381

The Tate Boat runs every 30 minutes between Tate Britain (Millbank Pier) and Tate Modern (Bankside Pier)

For more details and accessibility